Wait goes on for inquiry go-ahead

The Battle of Orgreave where Margret Thathcher finally achieved her dream of beating the miners.
The Battle of Orgreave where Margret Thathcher finally achieved her dream of beating the miners.

Campaigners continue to face a frustrating wait for a decision on whether the policing of a mass picket during the 1984-5 miners’ strike can be investigated.

The Independent Police Commission (IPCC) has made its decision as to whether there can be a full investigation into events at the Orgreave coking plant in 1984, but is keeping the ruling secret.

The IPCC said it could not reveal its decision until legal advice was taken.

Around 10,000 miners and 5,000 police clashed at the plant during the bloodiest episode in the year-long strike by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) against pit closures.

More than 90 miners were arrested, but subsequent court cases against them collapsed.

Police were accused of using brutal tactics to break the picket and of colluding in writing witness statements against miners.

In November 2012, South Yorkshire Police referred itself to the IPCC after revelations in a BBC documentary.

The IPCC launched a “scoping exercise” to decide whether it can carry out a full inquiry.

Now the decision has been made but the IPCC says it cannot provide any details.

The IPCC said in a statement: “The IPCC has completed the assessment of matters arising from the policing of events at Orgreave in 1984 and made decisions on whether there should be an investigation.

“We are awaiting legal advice about the publication of those decisions before we can proceed further.

“We appreciate the concerns about the delays, but we cannot comment further at this stage.”

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign was launched in 2012 to call for an inquiry into events on June 18, 1984, at the coking plant near Rotherham.

Campaign secretary Barbara Jackson said: “It’s an issue which is too keep to be resolved with a short, swift inquiry.

“We accept that an inquiry would probably take two or three years to come to its findings and a result.

“When you address meetings about the miners’ strike, you see that this is not an issue which is closed. It’s unfinished business.”

Ray Riley, a former Frickley colliery worker who was at Orgreave, is among people who believe events were orchestrated by the police to inflict a defeat on the miners.

Mr Riley, 56, of Hemsworth, said it was normally difficult for picketing miners to cross between different coalfields without being stopped by the police.

But on June 18, 1984, they were actually guided to Orgreave by the police.

Mr Riley said: “It was always really difficult to get to your destination because the police would have road blocks strategically placed.

“But on that day they were literally waving us off the motorway and directing us where to park.

“What actually happened that day, I think, took years of planning by the police. With hindsight, it looks like it was organised in advance.”

Mr Riley said he saw how police tactics changed and became more aggressive following the events at Orgreave.

He said: “It was a crucial moment, June 18, in my view because it fundamentally changed to nature of the strike.

“What happened at Orgreave with the military-style policing and arrests, opened the door for more aggressive policing at all collieries.

“It became much more authoritarian and belligerent. It was a seminal moment.

“I would like to see a broader inquiry into the whole policing of the strike, although I am supportive of the campaign.”