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1984 miners' strike: call for inquiry into Orgreave coking plant clash

By David Mercer

Published 12/06/2015

South Yorkshire Police referred itself to the IPCC over its handling of proceedings at the Orgreave coking plant
South Yorkshire Police referred itself to the IPCC over its handling of proceedings at the Orgreave coking plant

Campaigners have called for a "Hillsborough-style inquiry" into South Yorkshire Police's handling of violence during the 1984 miners' strike after the police watchdog announced it would not investigate alleged misconduct by officers.

The decision comes more than two years after the force referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over events at Orgreave coking plant in Rotherham 31 years ago.

South Yorkshire Police - which is already under intense scrutiny over its role in the Hillsborough disaster - faced claims that officers used "excessive force" against picketing miners, manipulated statements and gave false evidence in court.

But following a two-year analysis of thousands of pages of documents related to the case, the IPCC said it had decided not to launch an investigation, prompting one campaign group to brand the watchdog "not fit for purpose".

IPCC deputy chair Sarah Green said: "Because the miners arrested at Orgreave were acquitted or no evidence offered, there are no miscarriages of justice due to alleged police failures for the IPCC to investigate.

"Allegations of offences amounting to minor assaults could not be prosecuted due to the passage of time; and as many of the police officers involved in events at Orgreave are retired, no disciplinary action could be pursued.

"I have therefore concluded that there should not be an IPCC led investigation."

The IPCC said it had not found any "direct evidence" that senior officers within South Yorkshire Police conspired to instruct colleagues to commit perjury.

But in its redacted report, the watchdog said it had found "significant new evidence" of the force's "apparent desire to settle claims to avoid disclosing evidence that officers may have committed perjury".

Mark Metcalf, spokesman for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC), said its members were "disappointed" by the IPCC's decision but "not surprised".

Police waiting for pickets in May 1984 as they head towards to the Orgreave Coking Plant, near Rotherham, during the miners' strike
Police waiting for pickets in May 1984 as they head towards to the Orgreave Coking Plant, near Rotherham, during the miners' strike
South Yorkshire Police faced allegations over its handling of striking miners at Orgreave, Rotherham, in 1984

"The fact the IPCC, described rightly in our view by many prominent individuals as 'not fit for purpose', is stepping aside will not deter the OTJC from continuing its campaign," he said.

"The IPPC report recognises the limitations of what the organisation can do and that only a Hillsborough-style public inquiry can eventually get to the truth."

Mr Metcalf said a public inquiry would "inevitability" lead to a "paper trail" which suggested police actions in Orgreave were "influenced by political pressure from within the highest ranks of the Government of the day".

Former miner Kevin Horne, 64, who was arrested for obstruction at Orgreave in 1984 but never charged, said: "I'm really disappointed.

"I think they've got away with murder really, because the evidence is all there.

"They don't seem to have investigated properly or it's not in their power to do a proper investigation."

South Yorkshire Police voluntarily referred itself to the IPCC following media reports about its handling of proceedings at the Rotherham plant.

A BBC documentary broadcast in 2012 featured allegations that some police who were involved in prosecutions colluded when they wrote their statements.

The Inside Out programme investigated the events following the arrest of more than 90 people at Orgreave, which saw some of the most shocking and memorable scenes of the year-long dispute.

Those charged with riot were later cleared after doubts were raised about police evidence.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "This decision lets down the Orgreave families and shows the weakness of the current system.

"It has taken the IPCC two-and-a-half years to decide not to investigate the events at Orgreave and to conclude that the big questions weren't within their remit or resources.

"If they are too limited to do the job then someone else needs to.

"For too long there have been serious allegations about the way the miners were treated at Orgreave, but we have never had the truth.

"Its time for an independent inquiry, potentially modelled in the Hillsborough panel, to open up everything.

"The events at Orgreave were amongst the most troubling of the entire 1984/85 miners' strike.

"Those who were there have distressing stories of violence.

"Those who weren't saw the TV images of blooded faces, charging horses, of kicks and punches.

"The aftermath threw up more questions than answers.

"It's time for the truth."

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 IPCC reviewed these matters.

"The IPCC's review has been a complex exercise including in-depth analysis of a vast amount of documentation from nearly 30 years ago.

"The Home Secretary will carefully consider the findings of the IPCC's review and will respond in due course."

Ex-miner recalls Orgreave clash fears

A former miner arrested at the Orgreave coking plant more than 30 years ago has described how he feared for his life as violence broke out with police.

Kevin Horne, 64, from Mexborough in South Yorkshire, was among more than 90 people detained on June 18 1984 during the miners' strike before his case was dropped 14 months later.

He said: "It was a strange day. There was an atmosphere of doom for some reason.

"When we saw the size of the police presence, we were all very frightened.

"When the horses charged, we were running for our lives. It was a frightening experience.

"I had experienced being chased by police horses and dogs before, but this was something different. I was black and blue with cuts and bruises.

"I was locked up all day and not released until after midnight when there was no public transport and my three sons were in bed.

"I think the police and government had decided that would be the last day of the strike."

Mr Horne said he still found it "emotional" recalling the events of that day.

"First aid was being given to people with broken legs," he said. "People were unconscious. That's the emotional bit. We had to bandage people with our T-shirts."

Campaigners have called for a "Hillsborough-style inquiry" into South Yorkshire Police's handling of events at Orgreave after the police watchdog announced it would not investigate alleged misconduct by officers.

The force faced claims that officers used "excessive force" against picketing miners, manipulated statements and gave false evidence in court.

But following a two-year analysis of thousands of pages of documents related to the case, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it had decided not to launch an investigation.

 

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