This week’s media round up

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MPs write to Theresa May to demand inquiry into Orgreave policing

Letter says verdicts delivered at Hillsborough inquest make case for similar inquiry into miners’ strike ‘overwhelming’

Battle of Orgreave

MPs across the political spectrum signed the letter, including Sir Peter Bottomley, who was an employment minister at the time of the strike. Photograph: Don McPhee for the Guardian.

A cross-party coalition of MPs have written to the home secretary, Theresa May, to demand an inquiry into alleged police brutality during the miners’ strike at Orgreave in Rotherham.

Sir Peter Bottomley, a Conservative MP who was employment minister during the 1984-85 strike, has signed the Orgreave statement alongside Angus Robertson, the SNP’s parliamentary group leader, and the Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron.

Much of the parliamentary Labour party, including Jeremy Corbyn, are also signatories of the statement, which calls for “difficult truths to be confronted”, not least “how and whether police forces – ostensibly there to serve their communities – were used against one”.

The events of what became known as the Battle of Orgreave at the coking plant on the borders of Rotherham and Sheffield came to symbolise the miners’ strike. Large numbers of pickets were confronted by about 6,000 police from across the UK. Police charged 95 miners following the disturbances but the workers’ trial collapsed. Virtually all traces of the coking plant and the adjacent pit have since been eradicated.

The letter notes that events of recent weeks – specifically the findings at the Hillsborough inquest, the subsequent statement by South Yorkshire police’s interim chief constable, Dave Jones, and the recently released documents by the IPCC linking Orgreave to Hillsborough – make the case for an inquiry “overwhelming”.

A legal submission from Michael Mansfield QC, and the Orgreave Truth and Justice campaign, is currently being considering by the home secretary. The statement said: “Home secretary, we the undersigned believe that the developments of recent weeks make the case for a public inquiry into the events at and surrounding Orgreave overwhelming.

“Firstly, as you know, the Hillsborough inquests after 27 years of injustice exonerated fans delivering highly significant rulings which built on the vital work of the Hillsborough independent panel which found that in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster, South Yorkshire police had altered hundreds of statements with the intention of ‘deflecting blame’.

“Secondly, media reports unmasked the previously redacted sections of the IPCC report from June 2015 into the events surrounding Orgreave which revealed striking similarities between the personnel and alleged practices of South Yorkshire police at Orgreave and at Hillsborough. Similarities which we found to be chilling, and which, in our view, render the need for truth utterly essential.

“As you know, trust will never truly be restored until we find out the entire truth about Orgreave, which involved multiple police forces and multiple mining communities and the wider policing of the miners’ strike.

“We therefore urge you to seize the opportunity to build bridges between the police and those still troubled by how and whether police forces – ostensibly there to serve their community – were used against one.

“Thank you for the substantial personal contribution you have made to the search for justice for the families of Hillsborough. We sincerely hope you will now decide that it is time we got to the bottom of the events of that decade which still scar communities throughout South Yorkshire and around the country.”

Response from Home Office

One of our supporters has kindly allowed us to publish the response from the HomeOffice that he received to his letter.

Dear Mr Xxxxxx,

Thank you for your e-mail of 17 May to the Home Secretary about South Yorkshire Police’s handling of events at the Orgreave coking plant in June 1984.  I have been asked to reply on her behalf.

The Home Secretary is currently considering a legal submission received from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign on 15 December 2015 containing their arguments for establishing a public inquiry into those events.  The Home Secretary will therefore set out the Government’s position in the near future.

Please use the draft letter from the blog and write to the Home Secretary.

This week’s media round-up

Open up the Orgreave archives urges Northumbria’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC

Vera Baird has today urged the interim Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police to open up the archives on Orgreave, to show what really happened and to give Miners and their families the answers they deserve.

Today, it has been reported that senior police officers and a solicitor who were involved in the South Yorkshire Police response to Hillsborough were also involved with Orgreave.

Peter Metcalf was involved in defending the force against unlawful arrest claims after the 1984 Orgreave clash. He also played a key role in reviewing statements after Hillsborough. Deputy Chief Constable Peter Hayes and Assistant Chief Constable Walter Jackson are connected to both cases. The officers were also involved in a review of the evidence after Orgreave and had links to Hillsborough.

Vera Baird said “There are clear and sinister policing operational similarities between both events and the fact that the same officers were involved causes grave concern.

The Hillsborough inquiry gave families justice, now the miners deserve the right to have what happened at Orgreave fully investigated”

Mrs Baird has called upon the interim Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police to open up the forces archives to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign and to urge the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to put in place a structure to ensure an honest, open and transparent investigation.

Commissioner Baird added “The interim Chief Constable can help secure an investigation in to Orgreave by opening up the forces files and showing that South Yorkshire Police respect the miners and their families by giving them the answers that they deserve.  I defended miners involved in Orgreave and I stand ready to give evidence to the inquiry.”

Write to the Home Secretary

Use the template below to write to the Home Secretary asking for an inquiry into Orgreave.


Dear Home Secretary

I am writing to you to ask you to set up an independent public inquiry or panel about the actions of the police at the Orgreave coking plant on 18th

June 1984 during the 1984/5 Miners Strike. On that day dozens of truncheon armed mounted officers  and snatch squads in riot gear brutally attacked picketing miners. Many miners were injured and 95 miners were arrested and charged with either riot or unlawful assembly. The trial of the arrested miners collapsed when the Prosecution abandoned the case after it became clear that the police had falsified evidence.

Some miners were later financially compensated but there was never any investigation into police conduct for assault, wrongful arrest, false prosecution and lying in evidence. Not a single officer faced disciplinary or criminal proceedings and no body was held to account for orchestrating attacking and arresting the miners. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have since stated that there are “doubts about the ethical standards of officers in the highest ranks of South Yorkshire Police at the time”

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) provided you with a lengthy legal submission in December 2015 calling on you to set up an independent public inquiry but are still awaiting a response.

I believe that the issue of Orgreave is of local and national importance. A response to the OTJC about a full investigation into the violent and military style of policing on 18th June 1984, the demonising of picketing miners and the subsequent perjury by the police is now long overdue.

Yours sincerely

This week’s media round up’s-Tom-Watson-calls-for-independent-inquiry-into-Orgreave.htm,-our-medias-still-broken#.VzWIMtR4WrW

ORGREAVE: What it was and why it matters today

The Background

Orgreave Coking Plant, now demolished, stood on the outskirts of Sheffield, just 8 miles from Hillsborough Stadium , scene of the Hillsborough disaster on 15th April 1989, in which 96 Liverpool supporters were, as the jury at the recent inquests determined, unlawfully killed. The plant supplied coke to the power station at Scunthorpe some 20 miles away.

In March 1984 the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) launched a national strike in response to the plans of the National Coal Board (NCB) to close a number of pits. The NCB claimed that it only wanted to close 20, but the NUM maintained – and subsequent events proved them right – that more than 70 pits were on the NCB’s hit-list.  In the decade after 1984 the  coal– mining industry was effectively destroyed,  with devastating consequences for the miners, their families and their communities.

The NUM called  for a mass picket outside the coking plant on 18th June 1984, aimed at disrupting the supply of coke from Orgreave to Scunthorpe. It followed a series of  smallerdemonstrations at the plant in May and early June. Whereas in the first three months of the strike police forces around the country had done their utmost to prevent would-be pickets from reaching  the colliery where they planned to demonstrate, on this occasion, June 18th,, the police fell over themselves to be “helpful” guiding and ushering miners to the site, in particular to the “topside.”

Many of the pickets were surprised by this, for  them, unusual display of courtesy, and some were – rightly, as it turned out – suspicious. The “topside” was a field bounded at its bottom by a cordon of police officers six and more deep, blocking access to  the plant; the two sides were patrolled by dog-handlers with their charges; and a steep railway embankment and railway lines marked the back of the field. The only “escape route was over a narrow railway bridge at the top corner of the field, and this led into Orgeave village, with domestic housing on the right and a small industrial estate to the left.

“The Battle of Orgreave”

What happened on 18th June 1984 was not a battle but a rout.  In the lull that followed a number of what were by then ritual but ineffectual pushes against the police lines, the officer in charge of the police operation, Assistant Chief Constable Clement, ordered the police lines to open. Dozens of mounted officers , armed with long truncheons, charged up the field, followed by snatch squad officers in riot gear, with short shields and truncheons. The miners fled up the hill towards the embankment and the railway bridge. Many of those who couldn’t or wouldn’t run were assaulted with batons, causing several serious injuries, and dragged back through the police lines to the temporary detention centre opposite the plant.

Several similar charges followed, forcing the miners up into the village, where they tried to find refuge in gardens and in the yards of the industrial units opposite. The police ran amok, clubbing and arresting miners  indiscriminatelyIn one piece of TV footage a senior officer can be heard shouting “bodies, not heads”, but the number of head injuries sustained meant he was largely ignored.

It was a miracle no-one was killed. One officer was seen on television straddling a defenceless miner on the ground and battering him repeatedly about the head with his truncheon. Because the incident was witnessed by millions  on TV,  South Yorkshire Police interviewed the officer, PC Martin from the Northumbria  force , two days later. PC Martin said: “It’s not a case of me going off half cock. The Senior Officers, Supers and Chief Supers were there and getting stuck in too – they were encouraging the lads and I think their attitude to the situation affected what we all did.” The papers were referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who advised that PC Martin should not be prosecuted. There is no record of PC Martin being disciplined, either.

Altogether 55 miners were arrested at the topside, and all of them were charged with “riot”, an offence which at that time carried a potential life sentence. A further 40 men were arrested at the “bottom” (Catcliffeside . They were charged with the marginally less serious offence of  “unlawful assembly”.

The trial

It was not until May 1985, almost a year later, that the case came to court.  15 miners, all charged with riot, appeared at Sheffield Crown Court in what was intended by the Prosecution to be the first of a series of trials. The trial collapsed after 48 days of hearings, when the Prosecution  abandoned the case. It  became clear as the police witnesses trooped in and out of the court  that many officers had had large parts of their statements dictated to them, and that many of them had lied in their accounts, claiming to have seen things they could not have seen, or that they had arrested someone they had not. 

It also emerged in the course of the trial that new and unlawful public order policing tactics set out in a secret police manual had been used for the first time at Orgreave. At times the trial descended into farce, and the Prosecution had little option but to drop the cases of the remaining 80 miners.

There was never any investigation into the conduct of the police for assaulting, wrongfully arresting and falsely prosecuting so many miners, nor for lying in evidence. Not a single officer faced disciplinary or criminal proceedings. Five years later, however, and a year after the Hillsborough disaster, South Yorkshire Police  agreed to pay a total of nearly £500, 000 to 39 of the miners, without admitting that they had done anything wrong.

Why is Orgreave in the news now?

Because Orgreave and Hillsborough are part of the same story. Both cases have at their heart South Yorkshire Police, although Orgreave involved officers from many other forces  as well. The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign is pressing for a full and independent inquiry into what happened, just as the Hillsborough campaigners demanded an impartial investigation into the causes of the Hillsborough disaster.

The Independent Police Commission (IPCC) decided in June 2015 that, partly because of its limited terms of reference, it would not carry out a full investigation into Orgreave, although ite report contained some serious criticisms of the actions and attitudes of South Yorkshire Police, implicitly suggesting that a wider inquiry was called for.

Both cases, Orgreave and Hillsborough, involve serious wrongdoing by South Yorkshire Police:

At Orgreave this involved the assaults, wrongful arrests and false prosecutions of the miners and perjury in court;

At Hillsborough the inquest jury has now found that the 96 fans died as a result of criminally serious gross negligence by the police, and that the police told widespread lies to try and unfairly blame the fans.

Both cases involve strikingly similar attempts by the police to manipulate the evidence:

After Orgreave junior officers have come forward and said that parts of their statements, supposedly their own personal recollection of events,  were dictated to them by senior officers. Analysis of their statements shows that many do indeed contain lengthy identical passages – which cannot be a coincidence;

In the Hillsborough Inquest many officers gave evidence that they were told not to write up their notebooks in the usual way, but instead to write undated statements on plain paper, which were  then edited, often quite radically, by more senior officers and lawyers acting for the police.

Both cases involve the police colluding with the media to portray a false picture of events and blame the innocent so as to conceal their own wrongdoing and failings:

After Orgreave, encouraged by the police, the media unfairly vilified the miners for provoking the violence when in fact it was the police who instigated it;

After Hillsborough, egged on by the police, the media unfairly blamed the fans for the disaster, accusing them of being drunk, arriving late and trying to get into the match without tickets, an account which the Inquest jury has now roundly rejected.

In neither case has there been any proper accountability for what the police did wrong.

There is a clear and direct  chronological link between the two events:

The way in which the police abused their power at Orgreave, lied about it and got away with it, fostered the culture of impunity which allowed the cover-up after Hillsborough to take place.

Had the police lies after Orgreave been properly and publicly addressed, the Hillsborough cover-up  would never have been allowed to happen.

Why does Orgreave matter?

Orgreave represents one of the most serious miscarriages of justice in this country’s history, and it has never been adequately addressed. It is important that the truth is established and that the police are brought to account.

Many of the miners have been left with ongoing physical and psychological problems.  Many lost their jobs and their marriages and were left with a sense of grievance at their unjust treatment that haunts them even today

Orgreave led to a massive breakdown of trust in the police in the former mining communities (and indeed more widely) and this continues today among the children and grandchildren of the miners.

Orgreave marked a turning point in the policing of public protest. It sent a message to the police that they could employ violence and lies with impunity. It was only a year after Orgreave that the so-called “Battle of the Beanfield” took place, with violent and unprovoked  attacks  by the police on New Age travellers, followed by large-scale wrongful arrests. And more recently there have been examples of police “kettling” demonstrators in London for several hours – a kind of pre-emptive imprisonment.  With the Government’s Trade Union Bill aiming to further restrict picketing,  the right to protest in public is in serious danger.

What needs to happen?

In December 2015 the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign provided the Home Secretary, Theresa May, with a lengthy legal argument, calling on her to set up an independent public inquiry into the policing of events at Orgreave 0n 18th June 1984. We are still awaiting her response.

Such an inquiry could take the form of a panel-type inquiry,like the Hillsborough Independent Panel, which reviews all the documents, a full public inquiry which can call witnesses, or something in-between.

The Campaign would want to  discuss with the Home Secretary the scope and terms of reference of any inquiry set up.

The Campaign is also asking the IPCC to disclose a full, unedited copy of its 2015 report into what happened at Orgreave, so that the public can see whether any of the officers  involved in the manipulation of the Orgreave evidence were responsible for anything similar in respect of Hillsborough.

The Campaign has the support of a large number of MPs and trade unions, including the Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, the Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham,  and Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC.  We ask all those who support our aims to join the campaign and write to the Home Secretary, urging her to set up an inquiry without any further delay. 

Where can I find out more?

 You Tube Films

Orgreave Justice:

Battle for Orgreave:

Orgreave truth and justice campaign:

Lesley Boulton:


State of Seige by Jim Coulter, Susan Miller and Martin Walker (Canary Press, 1984)

The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners by Seumas Milne (Verso, rev. Ed. 2014) Seumas Milne argues that the breaking of the miners’ union was the outcome of a concerted secret police campaign.

Settling Scores: The Media, The Police and the Miners’ Strikeed Granville Williams ( 2014) Explains the events which led to the setting up of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

Images From The Past: The Miners’ Strike by Mark Metcalf, Mark Harvey Martin Jenkinson (Pen & Sword, 2014) Good narrative of the miners’ strike accompanied by the great photographs of Martin Jenkinson.

In Loving Memory of Work:

Open wound of Battle of Orgreave has still not healed, says Yorkshire MP

Louise Haigh MP has written to the Home Secretary telling her the events of the past couple of weeks make the case for an inquiry ‘overwhelming’.

This story originally appeared in the Yorkshire Post.

File photo dated 18/6/1984 of a twisted sign, felled concrete posts and a broken wall tell the story of violence outside a coking plant in Orgreave, South Yorkshire.

File photo dated 18/6/1984 of a twisted sign, felled concrete posts and a broken wall tell the story of violence outside a coking plant in Orgreave, South Yorkshire.

Questions about whether South Yorkshire Police was used “against their own” in the 1980s are still an open wound which has not healed today, according to a Sheffield MP.

In a letter to the Home Secretary Theresa May two weeks after verdicts were returned in the Hillsborough inquests, Louise Haigh claims “the cloud of past wrongdoing and alleged wrongdoing continues to hang over senior officials and continues to cause harm”.

Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, Louise Haigh

Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, Louise Haigh

Calling for a public inquiry, she described The Yorkshire Post’s recent revelations of links between Britain’s worst sporting disaster and the 1984 Battle of Orgreave to be “chilling” and said they “render the need for truth utterly essential”.

Redacted sections of a watchdog’s report into clashes between police and striking miners reveal that the same senior officers and solicitor were involved both in the aftermath of Orgreave and of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

They reveal that these officials became aware South Yorkshire Police officers had perjured themselves at the miners’ trial in 1984, but kept this fact secret.

Another officer interviewed about the alleged Hillsborough cover-up by South Yorkshire Police claimed that some of his colleagues were told by unspecified officers not to write anything in their notebooks at the time of Orgreave and then instructed to do the same in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster.

Her claims came as Dr Alan Billings, re-elected last week as South Yorkshire’s crime commissioner, said tonight that he expects Mrs May to announce an inquiry of some kind into Orgreave in the next month.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, he described the 1984-85 miners’ strike as being “the nearest we came in my life to a politicised police”, adding: “I think the police were dangerously close to being used as an instrument of the state.”

Earlier this week, the case for a inquiry into Orgreave was strengthened after The Yorkshire Post unearthed a previously confidential Downing Street memo highlighting Margaret Thatcher’s personal involvement in local Yorkshire policing during the Miners’ Strike.

The Battle of Orgreave unfolds in June 1984. New documents have revealed links between the tactics used by police and those employed in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.

The Battle of Orgreave unfolds in June 1984. New documents have revealed links between the tactics used by police and those employed in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.

One piece of correspondence shows the then-Prime Minister suggesting the Government could provide funds directly to South Yorkshire’s force to police the picket lines.

A later letter by Mrs Thatcher’s private secretary Andrew Turnbull, in response to problems the force was having with funding, said she agreed that chief constable Peter Wright “should be given every support in his efforts to uphold the law”.

The 1984 Battle of Orgreave saw 95 miners arrested at the coking plant, near Rotherham, after clashes with police which left 50 people injured. When the cases came to court, all were abandoned after it became clear that evidence provided by police was unreliable.

Since details of the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s redacted report into Orgreave were revealed last week, South Yorkshire’s new chief constable Dave Jones has said he would welcome an “independent assessment” of what happened.

In her letter to Theresa May, Ms Haigh, who has worked with the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign in calling for an inquiry, said this statement suggesting the full co-operation of South Yorkshire Police meant “establishing the full truth of that day becomes significantly easier”.

She said: “It is clear to me that unless we discover the truth of Orgreave we will not get to the bottom of the alleged malpractice at South Yorkshire Police in the 1980s. This of course has its own implications for ongoing enquiries relating to Hillsborough.”

She added: “I urge you to seize the opportunity to build bridges between the police and those still troubled by their actions and direction of certain forces in the 1980s.

“Those still troubled by how and whether a police force – ostensibly there to serve the community – was used against their own. These are questions which serve as an open wound which have not healed to this day.

“And I would also say that as a former special constable, I know that the work of police officers is essential and that they protect our communities every day but the cloud of past wrongdoing and alleged wrongdoing continues to hang over senior officials and continues to cause harm today.”

In his interview, Dr Billings said morale at South Yorkshire Police had fallen and officers felt “under constant battering” as a result of the historic scandals involving the force.

He said: “It’s almost as if they feel they cannot get out from under these things. Officers feel these legacy issues – if I can call them that – are just continually dragging them down and they can’t escape it.”