08 February 2013
The Independent Police Complaints Commission is continuing to assess referrals from South Yorkshire Police in relation to events at Orgreave Coking Plant in 1984 and the subsequent court cases.
This is a complex matter, due to the age of the incident. The IPCC’s legal team has had to assess what if any jurisdiction the IPCC has, what legislation would be enforceable and what misconduct regimes would be applicable.
The passage of the emergency legislation to assist with the Hillsborough investigation has clarified the first question, and the IPCC is able to determine that it may have jurisdiction.
The IPCC is now going on to analyse what the specific allegations are and which, if any, warrant an IPCC investigation. Among other things, this means deciding whether the test in the emergency legislation – that there are ‘exceptional circumstances’ justifying an investigation – is met. This will require analysing more documentation than the limited amount already supplied by South Yorkshire Police. The key issues will be what, if any, complaints have been made previously, what allegations were made, how those complaints were handled and which individual officers were subject to complaint. Additionally, it will be necessary to consider the strategic decisions that were made with regard to the collation, recording and presentation of evidence.
IPCC Commissioner Nicholas Long said: “The events of Orgreave have left a lasting legacy of anger and distrust of police, which has been communicated to me frequently during my appointment as Commissioner. The recent media coverage brought this matter to the fore and prompted a referral from South Yorkshire Police. This, combined with new legislation, has made it possible for the IPCC to consider whether it has jurisdiction. The fact that the events occurred almost 30 years ago creates a complex, legal problem that we are attempting to work through. We believe we have established that the complaints and allegations would come under IPCC jurisdiction to investigate. However that is not the end of the story. We must now examine the documentation to establish what matters can be properly investigated. Only then can we apply the test under recently introduced legislation to establish whether those allegations fall under the category of ‘exceptional circumstances’ which is the test for whether we should investigate.”
The IPCC is assessing allegations that police officers may have committed criminal and misconduct offences during events at the Orgreave Coking Plant that occurred between 23 May 1984 and 18 June 1984. Additionally, the IPCC is considering matters that arose from the events such as the evidence given by police officers at the various trials.
The IPCC received two referrals from South Yorkshire Police in relation to events at Orgreave and the subsequent related court cases. One referral was made following the broadcast of a BBC documentary in November 2012 and the second following a complaint from a member of the public.
The preliminary assessment has concluded the IPCC may have jurisdiction in relation to these matters, given the introduction of the emergency legislation to assist with the Hillsborough investigation. Where there are exceptional circumstances the new legislation allows the IPCC to investigate certain matters which may previously have been outside its jurisdiction. As the threshold for meeting the test of exceptional circumstances is very high the new legislation is intended to be used in the rarest of cases. What is meant by exceptional could include a number of considerations such as the unusual gravity of the circumstances or an overwhelming public interest in a matter being investigated.