Theresa May has promised to carefully consider a legal submission from campaigners calling for an inquiry into alleged multiple malpractice by South Yorkshire police, relating to the 1984 confrontation during the miners’ strike at the Orgreave coking plant.
Representatives of the Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign will on Tuesday hand over an 85-page submission, which focuses on the historic alleged injustices and their impact on a continuing lack of confidence in the police among former coalfield communities.
The call for a public inquiry, or a Hillsborough-style independent panel inquiry with full disclosure of documents, is supported by the shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, and Alan Billings, the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner.
At Orgreave in June 1984, the police always claimed they were attacked firstbefore mounted officers charged at picketing miners, followed by the first ever UK police units to use short shields and truncheons. The Independent Police Complaints Commission stated in June this year that there was evidence to suggest police under the command of the South Yorkshire force assaulted miners and used excessive force, then committed perjury and perverted the course of justice in prosecutions of 95 miners which collapsed a year later.
In 1991, South Yorkshire police paid £425,000 in compensation to 39 miners who sued for assault, wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution, but the force admitted no wrongdoing and no officer was ever disciplined. The force referred itself to the IPCC in 2012 after the Guardian and the BBC highlighted alleged fabrication of evidence against the miners in the prosecutions.
The IPCC revealed in its report that senior officers settled the civil claims without admitting liability despite acknowledging privately that there had been assault and perjury, which the IPCC said “raises doubts about the ethical standards of senior officers at South Yorkshire police at that time”. However, having taken two-and-a-half years to examine documents, the IPCC decided not to mount a full investigation, arguing that too much time had elapsed.
May met campaign representatives in July to ask how the impact of Orgreave had affected trust in the police. Arthur Critchlow, who suffered a fractured skull from a police truncheon and was arrested, held on remand and prosecuted for rioting – for which he was acquitted with 94 others – told the home secretary that his community has never trusted the police since.
Barbara Jackson, secretary of the campaign, said of the submission: “What happened over Orgreave still matters hugely to very many people who have never had their voices heard. The IPCC kept us dangling for two-and-a-half years, then decided not to investigate. Theresa May is offering a glimmer of hope that there may be some justice in the end.”
Drafted by lawyers Gareth Peirce and Michael Mansfield QC, who represented several of the acquitted miners, and by Henrietta Hill QC, the submission argues that there is vital public interest in holding police malpractice to account, and this should happen while many of those affected are still alive.
“The events of Orgreave damaged relationships between many mining communities and the police in South Yorkshire,” said Billings. “We need the whole truth to be told about what happened if the hurt still felt in parts of the coalfield is to be healed, and if confidence in the force is to be fully restored.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Serious concerns were raised about incidents that took place in 1984 at the Orgreave coking plant and it was right that the IPC C reviewed these matters. The home secretary will carefully consider any further legal submissions.”
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