Monday, 14 January 2013

Tory MP backs miners' police inquiry

From Big Issue in the North magazine 

A solitary Conservative MP is backing calls for an inquiry into the policing of the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

In a battle over pit closures over 11,000 miners and their supporters were arrested. Nearly three decades later many remain angry at the treatment they received from the police. 

Following a recent BBC documentary on events at the Orgreave coking works near Rotherham on June 18 1984, South Yorkshire Police (SYP) has referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. 

To prevent around 6,000 pickets from the National Union of Mineworkers blockading the works approximately 5,000 police officers, some on horseback, were deployed. In the battle that followed 95 pickets were arrested and charged with riot and unlawful assembly. All were later acquitted. 


MPs are concerned that officers involved in the prosecutions had colluded when they wrote their statements.  Now 39 of them have signed a parliamentary early day motion (EDM) calling for the Director of Public Prosecutions to participate in the investigation of South Yorkshire Police and ‘also deliver a full comprehensive inquiry’ into policing throughout the UK during the one-year strike.

Sir Peter Bottomley, the long-serving Conservative MP for Worthing West in Sussex. Bottomley was under-secretary of state at the Department of Employment in the Margaret Thatcher government at the time of the miners’ strike.

He has signed the edm: “Because if there has been apparent or possible manipulation of police evidence then an inquiry would be appropriate. I would hope the police would be prepared to join with us by following the evidence.” 

Bottomley won’t be persuading Conservative MPs to sign the edm as “people can make up their own minds.”

One of the four Liberal Democrat MPs to sign is trying to get others in his party to join him. South Manchester MP John Leech originates from a mining family and said: “I think SYP tried to stitch up the miners, just as they did later to the Hillsborough 96. I urge my fellow Lib Dem MP’s to support EDM 775.”

Members of the public have also been urged to support an inquiry. The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) has been established.

As an admin worker at the National Coal Board offices in Sheffield, Barbara Jackson, the OTJC spokeswoman was on strike in 1984-85. She had no bad experiences with the police, but argues that was: “because we were ineffective as only nine out of 900 in my workplace were on strike. The police were nationally organised by the Association of Chief Police Officers at New Scotland Yard, London to prevent strikers from persuading working miners to join them. The police were often brutal and we believe around 60% of those convicted nationally over picket line charges were bogus. The inquiry should also seek to discover whether the police were politically manipulated by the government.”

Easington Colliery, August 24 1984 and I am faced with one of my
relatives on the other side! 

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