Our exclusive revelations about South Yorkshire Police’s conduct of the subsequent investigation prior to the collapse of the prosecution of dozens of arrested pickets, alleged links with the inquiry into the Hillsborough tragedy five years later and the influence exerted at the time by Margaret Thatcher’s government again demonstrate the importance of a free Press and its ability to investigate those in authority without fear or favour.
The fact that the clashes at the infamous Orgreave coking plant cause so much controversy and bitterness three decades later explains the importance of an inquiry to set the record straight and determine the extent of the alleged establishment cover-up.
It’s important, however, that Mrs Rudd learns the lessons from past miscarriage of justice inquiries which have become too costly and too elongated. She needs to ensure total transparency effectively and efficiently – the public interest demands nothing less.
Equally the inquiry – and the media’s reporting of proceedings – has a duty to be even-handed and acknowledge both the grievance suffered by those pickets wrongly accused of breaking the law and the provocation that the police faced in these tempestuous times as officers struggled to uphold the rule of law.
Though this truth and reconciliation process will be challenging to both sides, it is also critical if South Yorkshire Police is to win back the public’s trust following a succession of scandals, past and present, which continue to impinge upon its reputation.
In contempt: Judge rebukes death crash driver
THE public’s faith in the criminal justice system will have been renewed by Judge Rodney Jameson’s sharp rebuke of a truly contemptuous Kelly Lucas after the 34-year-old failed to undertake 250 hours unpaid work – her punishment for knocking down, and killing, elderly widower Jack Richardson as he walked to the cemetery to tend to his late wife’s grave at a Wakefield cemetery. The 88-year-old pensioner had undertaken the walk twice daily since her death in 2010.
“If you breach it again, somebody will lock you up,” the QC told Lucas at Leeds Crown Court before increasing her sentence to 300 hours community work and telling her that she had been fortunate to keep her liberty after pleading guilty to causing death by careless driving earlier in the year.
This case highlights three lessons worthy of further comment. First, judges should not be afraid to assert their authority and speak in language that will resonate with offenders rather than long-winded legalese that tends to be less impactful.
Second, the Probation Service was alert to the driver’s non-compliance with the court order. Normally, it is this much-criticised agency which is in the dock for failing to enforce a court’s wishes.
Third, many will conclude that motorists are still treated too leniently when it comes to fatal accidents, and this case will give added credence to this view. In this regard, it is important that the Government keeps the law under constant review – and that the courts do not hesitate to use the full and considerable powers which are already at their disposal.
Too many lives are still lost each year because of irresponsible driving.
Number one lesson
ONE week after Theresa May’s policy speech on aspiration, the key question – what will the return of grammar schools achieve in Yorkshire? – is still unanswered. This is because ideological arguments are already diverting attention away from the more fundamental issues, namely the wide differential between school standards in London and this region, which has been propping up national league tables for far too long.
Perhaps Ministers will now listen more after Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw told a Northern Powerhouse conference in Huddersfield that tackling regional variations is far more important than a divisive debate about grammar schools. As The Yorkshire Post has stated, Mrs May’s One Nation mantra will be measured by the success or failure of her education reforms in this region – the issue of skills has never been more important – and this newspaper will continue to remind the PM of the importance of this.