From Big Issue in the North magazine.
Information accompanying news footage of events at Orgreave coking works during the 1984-85 miners’ strike has been altered on the BBC Learning Zone for schools.
This follows complaints from a former miner and a woman captured on camera at Orgreave being attacked by a mounted police officer wielding a baton at her head.
South Yorkshire Police is currently under investigation for its role at Orgreave after the force referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in November 2012.
Orgreave is one of the most contentious issues in the year- long dispute, which pitched members of the National Union of Mineworkers against Margaret Thatcher’s government.
In late May 1984, pickets assembled at the coke works in an attempt to prevent the movement of coal into the plant and coke coming out.
The mass picketing that followed was met by a well- organised police effort involving forces from across Britain.
The most serious disturbances occurred on 18 June 1984 when 8,000 miners were met by 4,500 police, many in riot gear. In the clashes that followed 95 miners were arrested.
Press and television coverage almost universally condemned pickets. BBC viewers on the day were shown police responding to missiles being thrown at them by charging the assembled crowd on horseback wielding batons. In fact the battle scene had been reversed and, in 1991, the BBC issued an apology, claiming its action footage had been “inadvertently reversed”.
Charged with riot and unlawful assembly, the 95 arrested faced lengthy prison sentences. However, when the first 15 appeared at Sheffield Crown Court in 1985 their trial collapsed when it became clear the police’s oral and written evidence was unreliable.
Each prosecution had been supported by two police officers making nearly identical statements.
All charges against pickets were later dropped. Subsequently, South Yorkshire Police (SYP) paid out £425,000 out of court settlements. Despite claims by miners that it was they that had been violently attacked by the police no new investigation was undertaken and no officer was charged.
The IPCC is now examining allegations of assault, perjury, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office.
The BBC Learning Zone Class Clips is for school teachers. Clip 7590 is wrongly headed “The miners’ strike: Orgreave colliery” as there was no colliery at Orgreave. The footage is just over three minutes long and shows a series of clashes between police and pickets, with injuries on both sides.
Almost 90 seconds is taken up by an interview with SYP chief constable Peter Wright, who says: “The police action was in response to the pickets’ actions... I have not previously known missiles to have been thrown to the extent they have here.”
Miner Paul Winter attended the Orgreave picket. When he saw the footage on the Learning Zone he said: “Although I don’t wish to force my politics on kids the events at Orgreave need to be based on fact rather than an organisation and a man who’s credibility is at an all time low with anyone with an ounce of common decency.
“The BBC reversed the footage in 1984. They should reverse this one and replace it with something more balanced.”
Lesley Boulton survived serious injury when she went to aid an injured picket near Orgreave on 18 June 1984. Photographer John Harris famously captured the moment when a mounted police officer aimed a baton at her head and missed narrowly.
Boulton said: “I am very disappointed the BBC is using such a one-sided and limited example of what happened at Orgreave. How are children supposed to be helped to think critically and form opinions with only half the story?”
In response to the complaints a BBC spokesperson said it had amended the “clip to make clear the footage is provided to stimulate classroom discussion and is not a definitive account of events”.
The footage has not been altered but the accompanying words have been changed to state that there are “no comments from a member of the mining community. What might a miner have said about the strike and the picket at the colliery? The piece can be used to stimulate work on different points of view in conflict and how they are represented.”