Outcry Over Decision Not To Probe Orgreave

Mike McCarthy, North of England Correspondent

After more than two years considering its decision, the Independent Police Complaints Commission has announced it will not conduct an inquiry into a notorious clash between South Yorkshire Police and striking miners 31 years ago.

The decision has been condemned by many former coal miners who were there on the day.

Police faced claims that officers used "excessive force" against picketing miners, manipulated statements and gave false evidence in court.

The Battle of Orgreave, as it became known, involved a mass gathering of miners trying to prevent supplies leaving a coking plant in Rotherham.

It came to symbolise the industrial relations conflict of the Thatcher era and resulted in injuries to 51 picketers and 72 policemen.

Political activist and former miner Dave Douglass described the confrontation as "absolutely terrifying".

He claims police had been politically manipulated in an effort to help defeat the miners.

"It was to teach us a lesson. It was to come into our backyard. It was to injure as many people as possible, terrify as many people as possible so that we wouldn't picket again," he said.

He said he was disappointed with the IPCC decision, although not surprised.

South Yorkshire Police referred the Orgreave case to the IPCC in 2012 amid growing claims that its officers had perverted the course of justice in the failed prosecutions of 94 miners on charges of riot and unlawful assembly.

But the IPCC says its decision followed "an extensive scoping exercise" into allegations of police misconduct.

It concludes:

:: The passage of time means that allegations of assault and of misconduct could not now be pursued

:: Some matters were subject to complaints and civil proceedings at the time

:: Detailed analysis has not revealed any other issues in relation to individual officers which could now be investigated

IPCC deputy chair Sarah Green said: "The events at the Orgreave coking plant during May and June 1984 not only marked a critical point in the miners' strike, but also in the relationships with, and trust in, the police.

"I recognise the seriousness of the allegations and their continuing effect on public confidence in the affected communities.

"These are events from more than 30 years ago, and I have considered the impact such a passage of time could have on an IPCC investigation and possible outcomes.

"In addition, because the miners arrested at Orgreave were acquitted or no evidence offered, there are no miscarriages of justice due to alleged police failures for the IPCC to investigate."

The decision was welcomed by South Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Neil Bowles.

He said: "We're always in favour of openness and transparency where it's required.

"We're talking about 31 years ago. Where do we draw the line? Do we investigate something that happened during the Second World War next?

"Let's move on and think about what's happening now and in the future."

The National Union of Mineworkers says it will continue to campaign for a public inquiry.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper also supports an independent inquiry.

She said: "It has taken the IPCC two-and-a-half years to decide not to investigate the events at Orgreave and to conclude that the big questions weren't within their remit or resources.

"If they are too limited to do the job then someone else needs to.

"For too long there have been serious allegations about the way the miners were treated at Orgreave, but we have never had the truth.

"Its time for an independent inquiry, potentially modelled in the Hillsborough panel, to open up everything."