Five years ago, on 31 October 2016, then Tory home secretary Amber Rudd announced in parliament that there would be no Orgreave inquiry of any kind. The unacceptable reasons she gave for this being that:
• It was too long ago.
• Nobody died.
• There were no miscarriages of justice.
• Policing had improved since 1984 so there was nothing new to learn.
• It wasn’t in the public interest to hold any kind of inquiry.
Let’s take a look at each one of Amber Rudd’s reasons for why no Inquiry is needed shall we?
It happened too long ago
Do miscarriages of justice usually have a time limit set on them? How convenient for the home secretary to decide how long this timescale for justice is. Putting that aside, the National Union of Mineworkers, campaigners, lawyers and politicians have been highlighting the injustice of the “Battle of Orgreave” ever since the trial collapsed in 1985.
A very high bar to set! That someone has to be killed by the police for any investigation to take place? Also it’s clear from the footage, images and testimony of miners who were present that it’s a miracle nobody was killed. Furthermore, 18 June 1984 was by no means an isolated incident of police violence during the strike and two miners were killed on other occasions, David Jones and Joe Green (no one has ever been held responsible for either death).
There were no miscarriages of justice
Try telling that to the 95 Miners who were, “beaten Up, fitted Up and locked up” many of whom spent hours in police stations with serious injuries, refused medical treatment, and then spent the best part of the year on police bail (some on remand) with a possible life sentence hanging over their heads. Remember, when the miners finally got their day in court the judge threw the case out as it became evident that the police had colluded to falsify evidence and their testimony was unreliable.
Policing has improved since 1984
Really? Where to start with this? We all know what happened at Hillsborough just a few years later. In more recent times we have seen the death of Ian Tomlinson in 2009 who died after being struck with a police baton in the G20 protests and of course the most recent policing of the Sarah Everard vigil to name but a few.
The Police have nothing new to learn
If we don’t learn the lessons of the past we are doomed to repeat them! And with the raft of new police powers the Tories are currently pushing through parliament, such as the Police Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, things look set to get worse not better. It should also be noted that even while the public inquiry into undercover policing is going on (not expected to finish until 2027) this government pushed through the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Act that will make it almost impossible to prosecute police officers and their informants if they commit rape, torture, and even murder activists.
It’s not in the public interest
Well it’s certainly not in the government’s interest, and maybe this recent article in the Daily Mirror gives a more accurate insight in to the real reasons Amber Rudd refused us an inquiry? Could it be because it would be a “Slur on the memory of Thatcher”. Also it’s not just ex-miners, campaigners and their families who have called for an inquiry, it’s been in the Labour Party manifesto since 2017; the Welsh Assembly has continuously called for an inquiry; the Scottish parliament are making plans to pardon miners arrested during the strike and the police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire, Dr Alan Billings was “shocked and dismayed” at the government’s decision not to launch an Orgreave inquiry. Even the Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox has added his weight to trying to set up an Orgreave independent panel.
The Orgreave Campaign is resolute in our determination to get justice and we will continue to keep up the pressure on this rotten government to get justice. Our campaigning would be severely restricted without the support of fellow trade unionists so please get in touch to request a speaker at your branch meeting or committee. We also rely heavily on the wider movement for their kind financial support, all our contacts are listed below. We look forward to seeing you on a picket line or protest soon.
This comment piece was by Joe Rollin, Unite organiser and also deputy chair of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.
Picture of Joe Rollin taken by Mark Harvey.