“An affront to democracy, a denial of justice” – law chief on Orgreave
The Home Secretary’s decision to deny any enquiry on Orgreave is a disgrace. It is an affront to democracy and a denial of justice. It is an insult to the miners, their families and communities.
There is clear evidence of police brutality, collusion and cover up – in the events of 18 June 1984 and in the farcical prosecutions and collapsed trials that followed.
Yet Amber Rudd says there will be no enquiry because “there were no deaths”. Is that the test now? Must someone die before authority is held to account? As Barbara Jackson, Secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign says the decision means there will be “no transparency, no accountability, no truth and no justice”.
Lou Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley points out the Independent Police Complaints Commission “found evidence of violence by police officers, a false narrative from police exaggerating violence, perjury by officers giving evidence and an apparent cover-up by senior officers” and that the “operational orders for the day have never come to light and the decision not even to commit to an independent review and release of all the evidence amounts to a shameful stitch up”.
Thompsons acted for many of the miners at Orgreave who faced trumped up charges on evidence fabricated by the police. In total, 95 miners were prosecuted for riot and unlawful assembly – offences which carry a potential life sentence.
The trial collapsed and all were acquitted. Some of the evidence submitted was laughable – the suggestion that a brick thrown by a miner bounced and hit the police: memorably disproved by the defence lawyer producing a brick in court and asking the police witness to demonstrate how to make a brick bounce, causing much mirth amongst the jury and much embarrassment to the prosecution.
But this is serious. Very serious. Just because no-one died and no-one was convicted does not mean that the issues should be allowed to rest. The available evidence shows that the police and authorities were engaged in a deliberate and highly-politicised attempt to punish and intimidate the miners and to damage them in the eyes of the public at a crucial point in the strike.
Many miners and their supporters suffered injuries. Many miners and their families suffered the stress and anxiety of prosecutions that could have led to lengthy jail terms. And the community was scarred.
There are questions that must be answered. Questions about the role of South Yorkshire Police. Questions that had they been investigated at the time may have exposed failings and improper conduct well before the same police force was involved in Hillsborough in 1989.
Rudd says that the conclusion that addressing the issues of Orgreave at the time would have prevented Hillsborough “is not a conclusion which I believe can be reached with any certainty”. That misses the point. Indeed, it makes the point. That issue should be investigated. Evidence should be heard. A conclusion should be reached. By blocking any enquiry, the Home Secretary prevents the truth being established.
The government has committed a grave injustice and made a grave mistake. The Prime Minister herself led campaigners to believe that an enquiry would be held. As Andy Burnham MP says “this establishment stitch-up is a purely political act”.
And it will be seen as such not just be the Orgreave campaigners and their supporters; not just by the trade union and Labour movement, but by the wider public who will rightly see a parallel with the desperate efforts to cover up police and establishment culpability for Hillsborough. As with Hillsborough, the issue will not go away.
The campaign will continue. In time, the government will have to concede an enquiry. Until then, it is the duty of all of us to support the campaign for Orgreave Truth and Justice.
- Stephen Cavalier is the chief executive of Thompsons Solicitors. He tweets at @stevecavalier