Police ‘must hand Orgreave documents to watchdog this week’

The Yorkshire police force facing a possible inquiry over its role in the 1984 Battle of Orgreave has been ordered to hand over boxes of potentially vital documents about the case which investigators have been asking for since this summer.

Miners Strike 1984 Orgreave Coking Plant Police with riot gear move pickets - 18 June 1984

The Independent Police Complaints Commission says it will use its powers to “require the documentation” relating to the clashes between police and striking miners to be released by South Yorkshire Police unless they are handed over by the end of this week.

During the clash at the Orgreave coking plant in June 1984, police officers were filmed beating picketing miners with truncheons.

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South Yorkshire Police referred itself to the watchdog more than two years ago after a BBC documentary claimed officers may have colluded in writing court statements which saw 95 striking miners wrongly charged.

The IPCC says the existence of the “outstanding documentation” became known in mid-2014, but South Yorkshire Police says they are partly the property of the force’s former insurers and that they cannot release them without their consent.

Police authorities and chief officers are required to provide information requested by the IPCC if asked under Section 17 of the 2002 Police Reform Act.

Members of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, who are calling for a full public inquiry into the police’s activity, met with senior IPCC officials last week after protesting outside the watchdog’s headquarters in central London.

According to the group, which includes former miners and friends and family of those involved: “The IPCC having been trying since June 2014 to obtain five boxes of material from the South Yorkshire Police that they need to analyse.

“If necessary they will serve a Section 17 letter demanding compliance with the request. They will use legal powers to obtain the material if compliance is not forthcoming.”

For more than two years IPCC officials have been going through thousands of documents as part of a scoping exercise to establish whether the Orgreave case met the criteria for “exceptional circumstances” that would justify a full Hillsborough-style investigation into a historic matter.

Forty members of the campaign group protested in London last week before meeting with IPCC officials, where they were told an internal draft report would be put together by Christmas. The watchdog’s lawyers will then look over the review, with a decision expected in the New Year.

Granville Williams, a founder member of the Orgreave campaign, said the group was told by IPCC bosses at last week’s meeting that the failure of South Yorkshire Police to hand the documents over was the “bottleneck” that had caused the delay in the report being completed.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “They said they were waiting for this evidence and because South Yorkshire Police were so tardy they were compelled to issue this Section 17 notice.”

An IPCC spokesman said officials had contacted South Yorkshire Police to say that unless the documents are handed over by the end of this week, “the IPCC will use its powers to require the documentation to be produced”.

South Yorkshire Police said that it was “currently in negotiation around obtaining the materials that have been requested by the IPCC as part of its scoping exercise around policing during the Orgreave miners’ strike in June 1984”.

It said: “The force does not physically possess these documents. They were previously held by the force’s insurers at the time, and the firm acting for the force’s current insurers claims the documents are partly the property of our former insurers and that the their consent would be required to release them.

“South Yorkshire Police is in negotiation with the firm to obtain the documents to provide to the IPCC as requested.

“South Yorkshire Police voluntarily referred the matter to the IPCC and is committed to working with them to resolve this matter as soon as possible to ensure an open, honest and transparent process.”