Home Secretary Sajid Javid has rejected an offer by the Bishop of Sheffield to establish an independent panel to examine the events surrounding the notorious ‘Battle of Orgreave’ at the height of the Miners’ Strike - less than three years after the Government refused to order a public inquiry.
Thousands of miners and police clashed at the South Yorkshire coking site on June 18, 1984 in the most violent events of the year-long miners’ strike.
Bishop of Sheffield The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox said today he was told Mr Javid “was unpersuaded” of the need for such a panel to review documentary evidence after he met with Home Office officials to put forward his proposal last summer.
He told The Yorkshire Post he was “disappointed” by the decision and remains hopeful it could be reversed.
“Orgreave remains unfinished business. There are unresolved questions about what happened at Orgreave and why,” he said.
The Home Office said it had taken the decision after “careful consideration”, taking into account how policing has changed since the 1980s.
Ninety-five miners were arrested at Orgreave, with 55 charged with riot, but court cases collapsed a year later due to unreliable police evidence. South Yorkshire Police later paid £425,000 in compensation to 39 pickets in out-of-court settlements.
In June 2015, the Independent Police Complaints Commission ruled that the passage of time meant an investigation into the force’s handling of events and allegations against police officers of assault and misconduct “could not now be pursued”. However, the IPCC’s report did find evidence “to support the allegation that offences of assault may have been committed” against miners and “that offences of perjury may have been committed by individual officers” .
In October 2016, then Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced there would be no inquiry into the events at Orgreave as there had been no deaths or wrongful convictions.
Dr Wilcox, who has been Bishop of Sheffield since September 2017, said he made his approach to the Home Office after discussions with local politicians and South Yorkshire Police chief constable Stephen Watson. The bishop, who recently oversaw negotiations between the city council and campaigners over the Sheffield street tree dispute, said he had not put himself forward to lead any Orgreave panel but would be “open” if any offer to do so was made.
Mr Javid’s decision to rule out an independent panel has been greeted with dismay by Orgreave campaigners.
Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign chair Chris Hockney said: “We had high hopes the Bishop’s approach would be seen as a real chance to get to the truth about what happened at Orgreave and afterwards. It’s a real kick in the teeth not just for us but for all the people and institutions who Bishop Pete has approached and who, like us, believe there’s a real need to address this part of history so mining communities can get truth and justice.”
Kevin Horne, one of the miners arrested at Orgreave, said: “It is 35 years since the strike, and I think the government hopes we’ll take this to our graves. If they’ve nothing to hide then they should welcome the chance offered by the Bishop to have a thorough and authoritative review of what’s held on record.”
Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP Gill Furniss tweeted: “The Home Secretary should heed the Bishop of Sheffield’s call for an Independent Panel to examine the events at Orgreave.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government’s decision not to accept an offer to set up a panel into Orgreave was made after careful consideration and took into account how the policing landscape has changed since the events three decades ago.”