Police watchdog accused of gagging order

From Big Issue in the North magazine. Please buy a copy if you see a seller.The Independent Police Complaints Commission should publish its completed report into the policing of events at Orgreave during the Miners’ Strike in 1984, says South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner.

Alan Billings’ call for publication comes after the IPCC offered interested parties the chance to examine the report but only if they were bound by strict terms of confidentiality.

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) are campaigning for a public inquiry into Orgreave, which occurred in the middle of the year-long national strike by over 100,000 miners.

Losing control

Ninety-five miners were charged with riot and assembly when 4,500 police, many in riot gear, clashed with 8,000 striking miners at the Orgreave coking works. All charges were dropped in 1985 due to the unreliability of police evidence. Compensation was paid to some pickets in out-of- court settlements. But no police officers were disciplined or charged for their actions, which left many miners injured.

The events of Orgreave came under the spotlight once more after Liverpool football fans established in 2012 that the deaths of 96 supporters at Hillsborough in April 1989 were caused by the police losing control of events. In the aftermath, South Yorkshire Police (SYP) referred itself to the IPCC.

When the press pointed out the same force had been in charge of operations at Orgreave SYP referred itself once more to the IPCC over events there. The police watchdog’s report contains its decision on whether or not to conduct a full investigation.

Campaigners expected a decision earlier this year but the IPCC said it was “awaiting the result of our consultation with our Hillsborough investigation team and legal advice from our barrister before we can proceed further”.

‘Unhappy’

Billings, South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, said he was concerned about the delay. “The IPCC should publish. The former miners have been waiting too long. South Yorkshire needs closure,” he said.

Chris Kitchen, NUM general secretary, said: “The IPCC took over two years to investigate and having finally made a decision it can’t say what it is or even when it will publicly announce what it is. That’s wrong.”

The IPCC has offered to allow the OTJC and NUM to read the decision. The latter has sent its legal representative to do so but Kitchen, who has not been informed of the decision, is “unhappy that it can’t be shared with all those that are concerned about justice”.

The OTJC has refused the IPCC’s offer. In a statement it said the conditions are “effectively a gagging order where a small number of our members would obtain information they cannot discuss with other members and more widely with the many other people who support our work”.

It added: “OTJC strongly condemns this situation and reiterates its demand for a full public inquiry into police actions at Orgreave in June 1984.”