Battle of Orgreave: 'Whitewash' claims after IPCC declines to investigate police wrongdoing

Watchdog says it will not stage a further inquiry into South Yorkshire Police over one of the most violent episodes of the 1980s miners' strike

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The Independent Online

Police will not be the subject of an investigation into one of the most violent episodes of the 1980s miners' strike, prompting claims of a whitewash over the allegations of excessive force and perjury by officers.

The police watchdog has said it will not stage a further inquiry into South Yorkshire Police over the 'Battle of Orgreave' in June 1984, despite finding evidence of misconduct and accusations that miners were beaten unconcious by officers on horseback.

Critics of the decision, including miners and the Labour party, are now calling for an independent, "Hillsborough-style" inquiry so that all evidence of police wrongdoing can be heard in public.

It comes more than two years after the force referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over events at Orgreave coking plant, near Rotherham, South Yorks, 31 years ago.

Following an exhaustive analysis of thousands of pages of documents related to the case, the IPCC said it had decided not to launch an investigation, saying too much time had passed for allegations of assault and misconduct to be pursued.

It follows years of campaigning for justice by miners and their supporters. Ninety-five miners were charged with riot and unlawful assembly, but their trial collapsed in 1985 after police officers were cross-examined in court.

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.

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An era of class war: The Battle Of Orgreave June 1984

 

"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 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".

Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck in the north-east and a former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, told the Guardian the IPCC's decision was "a nonsense and a whitewash".

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A camera crew fims a scuffle between police and miners at a demonstration at Orgreave Colliery, South Yorkshire, during the miner's strike, 2nd June 1984 - All police forces in England and Wales have been asked to search their files over claims that officers altered witness statements

 

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, said the decision "lets down" miners' families and called for a new inquiry on the lines of the Hillsborough Independent Panel.

She added: “If [the IPCC] 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."

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Arthur Scargill said he was "knocked unconscious by a paramilitary force purporting to be a police force"

 

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

"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."

Former miner Kevin Horne, 66, 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."

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

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Last year, on the 30th anniversary of the clashes - which involved 8,000 picketing miners and 6,000 police officers from around the country - former NUM president Arthur Scargill told the Daily Mirror that he was "knocked unconcious by a paramilitary force purporting to be a police force".

A Home Office spokesman said Home Secretary would review the IPCC's findings and respond in due course.

South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Alan Billings said the decision would "satisfy no-one".

He added: "But in suggesting, in effect, that the events of Orgreave should be investigated by a bigger public inquiry, the IPCC also prolongs the uncertainties that hang over those South Yorkshire Police officers who were present at Orgreave and will cause dismay to the present generation of police officers who want to acknowledge past mistakes and move to a better place."

Additional reporting by Press Association