Government rules out Orgreave inquiry

Home secretary Amber Rudd says there will be no statutory inquiry or independent review of 1984 police clashes with miners

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, has rejected the possibility of an inquiry into the “Battle of Orgreave”, the brutal clashes between police and miners during the 1984 miners’ strike.

The long-awaited decision will be regarded as a bitter blow to former miners and campaigners who hoped an inquiry would establish clear links between the misconduct by the South Yorkshire police during the Hillsborough disaster and their behaviour five years earlier at Orgreave.

But Rudd ruled out any kind of inquiry, saying very few lessons for the policing system of today could be learned from any review of events 30 years ago.

Orgreave inquiry: Burnham accuses Rudd of ‘nakedly political act’ – video

“This has been a difficult decision to make, and one which I have thought about very carefully. I have now concluded that there is not a sufficient basis for me to instigate either a statutory inquiry or an independent review,” she said in a House of Commons written statement.

“I know that this decision will come as a significant disappointment to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign and its supporters, and I have set out in a letter to them today the detailed reasons for my decision, which include the following points.

“Despite the forceful accounts and arguments provided by the campaigners and former miners who were present that day, about the effect that these events have had on them, ultimately there were no deaths or wrongful convictions,” she told MPs.

Campaigners and Labour MPs, who had been encouraged to expect some form of inquiry, albeit in a limited form, said they were shocked at the decision.

Orgreave Justice, whose campaigners were in the Commons public gallery to hear the announcement, tweeted:

We don't take no for an answer. Our fight for #orgreavejustice continues.
Join us at Barnsley Miners Hall Tue Nov 1st 10am

— Orgreave Justice (@orgreavejustice) October 31, 2016

Barbara Jackson, secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, said the announcement had come as a “complete shock and a great disappointment” and the decision meant there would be “no transparency, no accountability, no truth and no justice”.

She said: “It’s a complete and utter shock to us that we are getting nothing after campaigning for four years. So it’s OK that you get beaten up and seriously injured, but so long as you don’t die the police don’t have to be held accountable,” she said in reference to Rudd’s rejection of the inquiry on the grounds that Orgreave had involved no deaths or wrongful convictions.

The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said: “It is a grave injustice that there will be no statutory inquiry into the battle of Orgreave.”

The South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, shared her concern. He said: “The former miners and their families deserved to know the truth about what happened that day. I am therefore shocked and dismayed by this decision. The government have marched the Campaign for Truth and Justice to the top of the hill only to march them down again.”

He said he was unconvinced by the reasons given for refusing an investigation: “No one has ever suggested that the events of Orgreave were comparable in every respect to the disaster at Hillsborough. But the former miners and the former mining communities in South Yorkshire deserve an explanation as to what happened on that day, and where Orgreave fits in the wider story of the miners’ strike. I believe the government has shied away from agreeing an inquiry because of those wider issues.”

Andy Burnham, the former shadow home secretary who campaigned for an inquiry into both Orgreave and Hillsborough, said the Independent Police Complaints Commission had found evidence of perjury and perversion of the course of justice, and that new evidence had recently been put forward of orchestrated police violence and manufactured court statements. “This establishment stitch-up is a purely political act.”

In her Commons statement, Rudd said she couldn’t agree with campaigners that, had the consequences of the events at Orgreave been addressed properly at the time, the Hillsborough disaster would not have happened. “That is not a conclusion which I believe can be reached with any certainty.”

Rudd said the verdicts returned by the fresh inquests into the Hillsborough tragedy were unequivocal and clear that the 96 victims had been unlawfully killed. The criminal investigations should now be allowed to proceed.

Thirty years later, she said, policing and the wider criminal justice system had fundamentally changed. “There would therefore be very few lessons for the policing system today to be learned from any review of the events and practices of three decades ago. This is a very important consideration when looking at the necessity for an inquiry or independent review and the public interest to be derived from holding one.

“Taking these considerations into account, I do not believe that establishing any kind of inquiry is required to allay public concerns or for any other reason.”

The brutal clashes on 18 June 1984 between 6,000 police officers from forces across the country and thousands of striking miners during a mass picket at coking works in South Yorkshire was a key moment in the miners’ strike.

It has been described by Andrew Turnbull, one of Margaret Thatcher’s closest aides, as “like the Wars of the Roses”. For Thatcher, it exorcised the demon of Arthur Scargill’s defeat of Ted Heath’s government at the gates of Saltley coke depot 12 years earlier.

After the clashes outside the coking plant between Sheffield and Rotherham, 95 miners were prosecuted for riot and unlawful assembly, offences that carry a potential life sentence. But their trial collapsed and all were acquitted amid allegations that officers colluded to write court statements.

The police operation was led by South Yorkshire – the same force “whose culture of malpractice with impunity” was in evidence again five years later at the Hillsborough disaster when 96 Liverpool football fans died.

As Theresa May’s own Downing Street chief of staff, Nick Timothy, said when he endorsed the call for an inquiry earlier this year into what happened at Orgreave: “If the police pre-planned a mass, unlawful assault on the miners at Orgreave, and then sought to cover up what they did and arrest people on trumped-up charges, we need to know.”

In 2012, the South Yorkshire force asked the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate allegations of assault and misconduct by officers at Orgreave but only a redacted version of its report was made public in 2015. The IPCC said it did not want to prejudice possible criminal proceedings in relation to Hillsborough.

Campaigners concluded that the unredacted IPCC report contained evidence of clear links between the police culture and attitude at the time of Orgreave and then Hillsborough.


Alan Travis Home affairs editor

The GuardianTramp

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