THE ORGREAVE TRUTH AND JUSTICE CAMPAIGN (OTJC) was established in 2012 to campaign for a public inquiry into the conduct of the police at the mass picket of the Orgreave coking plant on 18th June 1984 during the miners' strike. The bloody confrontation between police and miners is infamously known as the ‘Battle of Orgreave’ though it was never a battle, but an attack by police. We have gathered considerable support from trade unions, councils, political and community groups and individuals, including a commitment in the Labour Party manifesto for an Orgreave Inquiry.
Following a self-referral from South Yorkshire Police in 2012 to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the IPCC conducted a scoping exercise to determine what should be investigated, e.g. claims that police officers “fitted up” 95 miners arrested at Orgreave. Many miners arrested, who suffered the most terrible police brutality, faced serious charges such as riot with a potential for life imprisonment. All miners were cleared amid allegations that the police fabricated evidence and behaved with impunity after the incident.
In 2015 the IPCC announced it would not mount an investigation even though it found evidence to suggest that officers assaulted miners at Orgreave, perverted the course of justice and committed perjury in the failed prosecutions which followed.
The Orgreave coking plant was situated close to Sheffield and supplied the British Steel Corporation Works at Scunthorpe. During the strike the National Coal Board stepped up lorry deliveries using scab labour as the railway unions were supporting the strike and not delivering by rail. Accordingly Orgreave became the subject of more intense picketing.
The height of the picketing occurred on June 18th when the National Union of Mineworkers organised thousands of miners and supporters to picket the plant.
On their arrival miners dressed in summer attire were ushered into a field by police - a change from the normal practice of blocking access routes and turning miners away from picketing. The miners, peaceful and good humoured, were later met by considerable force from thousands of police and charged by mounted officers and police in riot gear wielding truncheons and shields. Evidence suggests that Orgreave was a testing ground for carefully pre-planned police tactics that involved violent and aggressive practices aimed at demoralising and breaking the miners.
No police are understood to have been disciplined for either the alleged assaults on miners or the allegations of fabricated evidence. In June 1991, with little national reporting, 39 of the miners charged sued South Yorkshire Police for unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution. The case was settled with a payment of £425,000 with no admission of liability.
The 1984/5 strike was the longest national strike in British history. For a year thousands of members of the NUM, their families and supporters, in communities all over Britain, fought to prevent the decimation of the coal industry on which our livelihoods and communities depended.
The attacks on miners involved the use of the courts, anti-trade union laws, restrictions on welfare benefits, involvement of the security services and deliberately biased reporting from the BBC and other media outlets. These tactics have been used countless times since. Undeterred by no IPPC investigation, the OTJC met Home Secretary Theresa May in 2015. She encouraged the campaign to submit information to the Home Office to enable her to examine the evidence for an inquiry. In the 16 months between May, as Home Secretary, inviting the submission and Amber Rudd, as Home Secretary, rejecting any inquiry on 31st October 2016, the Home Office did not consider the police files or trial transcripts. They looked only at the original Thatcher government files from 1984/5. It was after considering them, and what they revealed about that Conservative government’s actions, that they decided against an inquiry. They wanted to bury inconvenient truths. Rudd’s crude reasons for rejecting an inquiry were that it would be hampered by the passage of time, that some of those involved were now dead and that, in terms of accountability, most officers whose conduct might be examined were no longer employed by the police. If May, Rudd and current Home Secretary Sajid Javid think the matter is closed they are very wrong. The decision to block any inquiry has galvanised the OTJC. We have sustained an incredible level of activity since then.
2019 is the 35th anniversary of Orgreave and the 200th anniversary of another infamous deployment of the forces of the state to squash popular protest, the Peterloo massacre. There are many parallels between the two events. The Peterloo commemorations and events commemorating the miners’ strike will provide people with a powerful understanding of the way the state can use force to suppress dissent and protest. Support the work of the OTJC to get truth and justice for those miners bruised, battered, arrested and falsely accused at Orgreave!
For more information and to show support and solidarity please visit http://otjc.org.uk/
is secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign