Campaigners demand Hillsborough-style inquiry on Battle of Orgreave

Campaigners will today hand over a detailed dossier to Home Secretary Theresa May urging her to set up a full public inquiry or a Hillsborough-style ‘independent panel’ into the events of the infamous 1984 Battle of Orgreave.

The Battle of Orgreave unfolds in 1984. Campaigners are now calling for a public inquiry.
The Battle of Orgreave unfolds in 1984. Campaigners are now calling for a public inquiry.

Members of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) will present a legal submission with testimonial from miners and their families involved in the clashes between striking pit workers and South Yorkshire Police.

In June the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it would “not be in the public interest” for it to launch a full investigation into claims police used excessive force against miners, had their statements manipulated and gave false evidence in court to justify spurious criminal charges.

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The campaign group has since been working on a legal submission and says it had a “very positive” meeting with Mrs May in July where she said she would consider any application for an inquiry.

Theresa May

Treasurer Chris Peace and Mike McColgan, legal adviser to the campaign, a junior solicitor at the time of the miners’ original trial, will travel to London from Sheffield today and hand the 86-page document to a senior civil servant.

They hope the Home Secretary will agree to launch an independent panel similar to that which looked into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster or the public inquiry like that set up this year into undercover policing and led by Lord Justice Pitchford.

OTJC secretary Barbara Jackson told The Yorkshire Post that she hoped Mrs May would look at their submission “fairly and objectively”.

In the Battle of Orgreave 95 miners were arrested at the Orgreave coking plant, near Rotherham, on June 18, 1984, after clashes with police which left 50 people injured.

When the cases came to court, all were abandoned after it became clear that evidence provided by police was unreliable. South Yorkshire Police paid £425,000 in compensation to 39 pickets in out-of-court settlements.

South Yorkshire Police referred itself to the IPCC in 2012 after a BBC documentary claimed officers may have colluded in writing court statements which saw miners wrongly charged.

Ms Jackson said: “The legal arguments are that when the trial collapsed after millions of pounds had been spent on bringing the miners to trial, there was no investigation into why the trial collapsed, it was swept under the carpet.

“No police body or public body has seriously investigated why they were even brought to trial.

“Police officers were giving evidence that didn’t match up with the police’s own video. Their statements were inconsistent with one another.

“Police officers were saying they were arresting X and Y and they weren’t the arresting officer and in some cases weren’t even on site at the time.”

Four barristers have been working on the submission without payment, including Michael Mansfield QC and Gareth Peirce, both of whom represented accused miners at the original trial.

This summer, the IPCC said it would “not be in the public interest” for it to launch a full investigation into Orgreave like the probe it is currently carrying out into the Hillsborough disaster.

The watchdog’s review into the Battle of Orgreave found evidence that senior officers became aware of perjury by their colleagues but did not want it to be revealed, something it said raised “doubts about the ethical standards of officers in the highest ranks at South Yorkshire Police at that time.”

But it said the “passage of time” meant allegations of assault of misconduct by police could not now be pursued, and that some were subject to complaints and civil proceedings at the time.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Serious concerns were raised about incidents that took place in 1984 at the Orgreave coking plant and it was right that the Independent Police Complaints Commission reviewed these matters.

“The Home Secretary will carefully consider any further legal submissions.”