Some readers will clearly remember June 1984 and the violent scenes portrayed on our television screens of what became known as the “Battle of Orgreave”. Subsequent reports and the release of Government papers 30 years on have shown the extent to which the State were waging war on the miners, who were in a bitter dispute with the NCB to save their industry and community. The BBC images of Orgreave shown that evening in our homes was a complete distortion of what really happened on that hot and sunny day in South Yorkshire. What the BBC failed to do was transmit the correct sequence of events showing miners being attacked, in a style tantamount to military tactics, by the Police. Many miners, including a number in our area, were injured that day, violently assaulted and then arrested for rioting!
What followed was the collapse of the attempted prosecution of 95 miners on riot charges, following allegedly fabricated accounts and statements given by the police officers who were there that day. The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign has done much to highlight what happened that day and bring to the fore the campaign for recognition that miners were wrongly served that day by a Police force we would expect to act with integrity and fairness at all time.
Recently, in a BBC report, a former police officer who served with the Hertfordshire force, admitted that he was told what to put in his statement after he arrested a miner during the Orgreave confrontation. "I've never before or since, while I've been a police officer, been involved where effectively chunks of a statement were dictated. They weren't my words," he said.
No one has ever been held accountable for this chaos which left some miners permanently injured by the brutality of the assaults upon them. Truth and justice must prevail.
Labour MPs in Parliament are urging ministers to release all information about Government-police communications at this time with a proper investigation.
Over a year ago, following a documentary about Orgreave, South Yorkshire Police referred themselves to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). 18 months later the IPCC still haven’t made a decision whether to investigate or not. I am now calling for the IPCC to get on with an investigation. If the IPCC won’t or can’t investigate, Labour MPs will call on the government to set up an independent investigation.
We are all the more aware now that we do not have a system for promptly and properly investigating police conduct. We need reform. The IPCC’s failure to deal with the referral over Orgreave shows why it needs to be replaced. That is why Labour would replace the IPCC with a tougher new Police Standards Authority, which would be able to launch its own investigations without the need for referrals from police forces.