Amber Rudd did not review police files before Orgreave inquiry refusal

Campaigners say home secretary made superficial decision ‘without bothering to look at the evidence’

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, did not look at evidence held by South Yorkshire police on its operation at Orgreave during the 1984 miners strike and the subsequent collapsed prosecutions against 95 men before she turned down an inquiry into the events, the Guardian has learned.

The Home Office has refused to say what documents Rudd and its officials considered, but South Yorkshire police said they had not sent the materials they held to the home secretary.

Campaigners said they felt let down and that Rudd had made a superficial decision “without bothering to look at the evidence”.

The South Yorkshire police archive on Orgreave is understood to include all its papers on the operation itself, in which officers are accused of having planned the use of violence against 8,000 miners who gathered to picket the coking plant near Rotherham.

Documents also relate to the criminal charges subsequently brought against 95 miners, which collapsed in June 1985 after allegations that police officers had lied in court and fabricated evidence. Papers documenting 39 miners’ subsequent civil claims for assault, false arrest and malicious prosecution, which the force settled, paying £425,000 in damages, are also held.

Other material includes witness statements, lists of arrest records, documents on the “mutual aid” given by other police forces, as well as photographs and film of the day. None of it was seen by the Home Office during 15 months in which first Theresa May, then Rudd, said they were considering an inquiry.

The Home Office also did not approach the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) for the evidence it gathered and examined to produce its June 2015 report on Orgreave, the police watchdog’s deputy chair, Sarah Green, is understood to have told campaigners.

The Home Office declined to say what evidence May, Rudd or her officials had considered before reaching the decision not to launch an inquiry. A spokesperson said only that Rudd had reviewed “a range of relevant documentation”.

Joe Rollin, chair of the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign (OTJC), said: “We were led up the garden path for more than a year, given signals that some form of inquiry would be held, but this now shows the Home Office let us down without even bothering to look at the evidence. People in our former mining communities felt crushed by the decision last Monday, and angry with themselves for ever believing the government would listen.”

May first said in June last year that she would “consider any request to set up a public inquiry”, after the IPCC reported evidence of excessive force by police at Orgreave, and subsequent perjury by some officers, perverting of the course of justice and a cover-up.

South Yorkshire police told the Guardian, in answer to a question about whether the force had given its files to the Home Office: “All of the materials in possession of South Yorkshire police have been previously made available to the IPCC in their raw form. We have not shared these files with any other body.”

In July last year May, then home secretary, met OTJC representatives and was told that mistrust of the police has passed down to miners’ grandchildren. Families whose relatives were among the 96 people unlawfully killed due to South Yorkshire police failings at Hillsborough five years later also told May and Rudd that they wanted an inquiry. The Hillsborough families believe that the disaster and its subsequent alleged cover-up might have been avoided had the force’s culture been reformed after the malpractice exposed by the Orgreave events.

However, last week Rudd announced she would not hold an inquiry in any form. She said this was principally because nobody had died at Orgreave, there had been no miscarriage of justice, policing had improved since 1984, and the link with Hillsborough could not be made with any certainty.

Labour’s Andy Burnham, who has campaigned for an inquiry into Orgreave, said the former mining communities in South Yorkshire had “again been told by the government that they do not matter”.

He said: “This news confirms my suspicion that the home secretary did not do a thorough job in looking at all the evidence, and for that reason her decision is inadequate and unsound.”

Following Rudd’s refusal, a cross-party group of MPs led by the chair of the home affairs select committee, Yvette Cooper, and including the Conservative MP Edward Leigh, wrote asking her to support the committee holding its own inquiry into Orgreave.

As the committee’s membership has a six-to-five Conservative majority, support from the government is seen as essential to securing a decision by members to pursue an inquiry. Cooper has also asked Rudd what evidence the Home Office relied on before refusing an inquiry into Orgreave. The Home Office is due to respond on Friday.


David Conn

The GuardianTramp

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