Police let off over Battle of Orgreave

Miners Strike 1984'Orgreave Coking Plant'Foot police charge pickets - 31st May 1984
Miners Strike 1984'Orgreave Coking Plant'Foot police charge pickets - 31st May 1984

Campaigners have slammed police watchdog the IPCC after it announced it will not pursue an investigation into the conduct of officers at the infamous Battle of Orgreave.

The clash between picketing miners and police in June 1984, during the national miners strike, saw 94 people arrested.

Embargoed to 0001 Monday March 2''File photo dated 04/06/84 of a member of the picket inspecting the police outside the Orgreave Coking plant near Rotherham during the miners' dispute, as the miners' strike started in Yorkshire in early March 1984 and within days half the country's mineworkers had walked out in protest at pit closures. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday March 2, 2015. The dispute rapidly escalated, with 8,000 police officers drafted into Nottinghamshire, the county which became one of the fiercest battlegrounds as some miners continued to work, arguing there should have been a ballot. See PA story INDUSTRY Miners Background. Photo credit should read: PA Wire

Embargoed to 0001 Monday March 2''File photo dated 04/06/84 of a member of the picket inspecting the police outside the Orgreave Coking plant near Rotherham during the miners' dispute, as the miners' strike started in Yorkshire in early March 1984 and within days half the country's mineworkers had walked out in protest at pit closures. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday March 2, 2015. The dispute rapidly escalated, with 8,000 police officers drafted into Nottinghamshire, the county which became one of the fiercest battlegrounds as some miners continued to work, arguing there should have been a ballot. See PA story INDUSTRY Miners Background. Photo credit should read: PA Wire

When the cases came to court, all were abandoned due to unreliable evidence and later South Yorkshire Police paid out £425,000 in out-of-court settlements to 39 pickets.

But the Independent Police Complaints Commission has announced it will not continue to investigate the incident.

The IPCC deputy chair Sarah Green said in her decision: “These are events from more than 30 years ago, and I have considered the impact such a passage of time could have on an IPCC investigation and possible outcomes.

“In addition, 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.”

Joe Rollin, chair of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, said: “We are disappointed but not surprised.

“The IPCC does not have the teeth to conduct a proper investigation.

“We think the excused about the amount of time that has passed are not acceptable.

“Finding the truth is in the public interest.

“We will continue to fight.”

Miss Green added: “Even if we were to do an investigation now, what would it achieve?

“If this had happened last week, we would be investigating it. We have far more powers than the Police Complaints authority did.

“What we can’t do is rewind time. There’s nothing we can do about that.

“I hope people will be able to recognise the amount of hard work which has gone into this decision, from all the evidence that we have published, even if they don’t agree.”

She said the IPCC could ‘review the decision’ if new evidence did come to light in any further enquiries.

Ms Green added: “We are alert to the impact of the decision on those people. I wouldn’t want anybody to think I have taken this decision lightly.”

South Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings said: “South Yorkshire Police referred themselves to the IPCC in November 2012.

“Despite repeated requests from former miners, local MPs, councillors and the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, the decision has been an inordinately long time coming and is just a few days short of the 31st anniversary of the events themselves.

“The decision of the IPCC not to investigate the events of Orgreave is likely to satisfy no one.

“It does not bring closure for the former miners, their families and communities. Their sense of justice denied will continue. The psychological and emotional wounds will persist.

“But in suggesting, in effect, that the events of Orgreave should be investigated by a bigger public enquiry, 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.

“None of this will help to rebuild trust and confidence between the former mining communities of South Yorkshire and the police.

“I would understand why the former miners would want a thorough inquiry: they want to know the truth and they want closure after so many years. However, any such enquiry should not be allowed to be protracted and the costs would have to be borne by the national government and not fall on the present generation of South Yorkshire taxpayers.”

One 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, aged 64, from Mexborough, 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.”