After revelations of misconduct by South Yorkshire police in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, this week sees a renewal of similar allegations surrounding the “Battle of Orgreave” of 1984.
Chris Kitchen, the president of the Nation Union of Miners (NUM), has appealed to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to widen the Hillsborough Investigation to include alleged cover-ups in the wake of the most dramatic moment of the 1984 miners’ strike.
Police were filmed charging the miners on horses and beating them, sometimes repeatedly. Subsequent defence for the police has stated the miners attacked first, despite statements to the contrary.
The move to expand the Hillsborough investigation comes after the assertion by Michael Mansfield QC (who represented Orgreave miners) that the same culture of misconduct and impunity that sustained the Hillsborough cover-up existed beforehand, during the miners’ strike.
Tonight sees the broadcast of Inside Out on BBC One, featuring an investigation into the conduct of South Yorkshire police surrounding the events of Orgreave.
In this programme there are testimonies of junior police officers at the time, who claim to have been told what to write. Mark George QC finds this to be true. Having examined the reports from the day, George cites the remarkable similarity in the wording of reports by police officers from different forces suggesting a cover-up.
Vera Baird QC (now running for Police Commissioner in Northumbria) had statements examined by a handwriting expert to discern their validity. Her first attempt to do so in court was thwarted when the original statement went missing during a court adjournment. However, copies were assessed by Home Office experts who concluded the signature on a statement was not from the same officer who wrote the statement.
There have been many comparisons drawn here between the police in their responses to both Hillsborough and Orgreave, with an attempted shifting of blame for tragedy and violence.
Jack Straw has previously accused the police in the time of Margaret Thatcher of fostering a systemic culture of impunity. With evidence and pressure now pushing for a wider investigation into the conduct of the South Yorkshire police, his accusations seem more accurate than ever.
We cannot let justice be kept from those who have suffered at the hands of police misconduct. Neither can we allow the vital work of the police and many, many officers be undermined by a lack of accountability.