We won’t sign watchdog report ‘gagging order’, say Orgreave campaigners

A picket walks in front of police lines at Orgreave
A picket walks in front of police lines at Orgreave
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Orgreave campaigners say they have had a “gagging order” imposed on them by watchdog officials over the long-awaited report into clashes between police and striking miners in 1984.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has made a decision on whether to launch a full Hillsborough-style investigation into the Battle of Orgreave, but has shared this only with “some interested parties” on a strictly confidential basis.

Members of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) say “a small number” of its members were offered a chance to see the decision and the rationale document, but because of the need for confidentiality would not have been able to share the information.

The group said in a statement: “Effectively they would have signed a ‘gagging order’ preventing them discussing it with other interested OTJC members and more widely. The OTJC has therefore decided not to comply with these onerous conditions.”

In the Battle of Orgreave 95 miners were arrested at the Orgreave coking plant, near Rotherham, on June 18, 1984, after clashes with police during the Miners’ Strike.

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.

The IPCC has come under fire for the two years it has taken to decide if whether the circumstances meet the criteria for “exceptional circumstances” that would justify a full probe into a historic matter.

A report setting out the decision was completed earlier this year but was not revealed because officials wanted to check it did not prejudice the ongoing Hillsborough inquests relating to officers in the same era.

The IPCC now says it has shared the rationale document, and the decision, with “some interested parties, including a complainant”, on a “strictly confidential basis”.

In a statement, members of the Orgreave campaign group said these terms were effectively a ‘gagging order’.

They said: “The OTJC strongly condemns this situation and reiterates its demand for a full transparent public inquiry into police actions at Orgreave in June 1984.

“In addition the IPCC decision means that not only OTJC members but the media and the wider public will be also kept in the dark.

“As a strong Yorkshire Post editorial commented: ‘Given that it is difficult to think of a more serious possible misconduct by police officers...it is inconceivable that this approach should be taken’.”

Last week, the IPCC said it had advised the interested parties “that we have decided not to publish at this time and our reasons for that decision”, adding: “We will publish the decision and the supporting rationale as soon as we can.”

A spokeswoman said the watchdog completed the assessment of available information in January “and made decisions on whether any matters should be investigated”.

She said: “The decisions follow careful consideration of many thousands of pages of documents, film and photographic material which have been found and obtained by the IPCC over the last two years, including important documents uncovered in material provided from South Yorkshire Police in December 2014.

“The decision and rationale documents have been shared on a strictly confidential basis with some interested parties, including a complainant, and we are awaiting a response from others to the offer to read the documents.”

A spokesman today declined to comment further.