Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced on 31 October there will be no inquiry into the ‘Battle of Orgreave’, as she believes there is no “sufficient basis… to instigate either a statutory inquiry or an independent review”.
The Battle of Orgreave saw thousands of striking miners and police officers clash at the Yorkshire coking site in 1984. Officers, led by South Yorkshire Police, were alleged to have been heavy-handed and are accused of manufacturing statements in the aftermath.
New evidence emerged this year from police officers who were at the confrontation, while the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said last year there was:
“evidence of excessive violence by police officers, a false narrative from police exaggerating violence by miners, perjury by officers giving evidence to prosecute the arrested men, and an apparent cover-up of that perjury by senior officers”.
Scisco Media was with local campaigner John Dunn, immediately after the decision by the Home Secretary to not open an inquiry.
Dunn was a member of Derbyshire National Union of Miners (NUM) from 1971 until 1990 when he was victimised out of the industry. He was Branch official at Markham No 2 NUM at the time of the miner’s strike.
He is now a surcharged Clay Cross councillor and an active campaigner for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.
Scisco Media (SM): Can you explain for our readers what the Battle of Orgreave was and why families of miners are calling for justice?
John Dunn (JD): The so called Battle of Orgreave took place on 18 June 1984 at the Orgreave coking works in South Yorkshire.
Unusually, miners who had previously met with police roadblocks when picketing throughout the coalfield were freely allowed to gather at Orgreave on that day. They were met by 6000 police, including dog units and mounted officers.
After unsuccessfully picketing lorries going into the coke works while leaving the picket line, police with riot shields and batons attacked the pickets paving the way for an assault by mounted units wielding long batons, trapping the pickets in the field – the only escape being onto the rail lines where they were met with the dog units.
Pickets were also chased by the mounted units into the nearby village. 95 were arrested and charged with riot which carried a potential life sentence.
The BBC reversed the news footage allegedly showing pickets first attacking the police, something they apologised for 10 years later.
SM: Theresa May while Home Secretary consciously raised hopes among former striking miners beaten by police at Orgreave who were falsely accused of rioting, that an independent statutory inquiry would happen. But now Rudd has backtracked. So what’s happened? Why do you think the government believe there is no need for an inquiry?
JD: They are afraid of the truth as to how the Thatcher government micromanaged the handling of the strike and used the entire state machine against the NUM, including the security service.
SM: The Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott described the decision as a “grave injustice” and then said: “We know South Yorkshire Police lied about what happened at Hillsborough. Just five years earlier the same South Yorkshire Police, many of the same commanders, behaved in the same way at Orgreave”. Do you agree with her?
JD: Yes, would those same officers have had the audacity and confidence to lie and cover up the reality of the Hillsborough disaster if they had not got away with it 5 years earlier?
SM: The Labour Party seems to support your campaign, but they were in power for 17 years and had a chance to open an inquiry, yet didn’t. Do you think they could have done better?
JD: Most definitely! Unfortunately, Labour was led by Neil Kinnock at the time of the strike, who was determined to sabotage our struggle. He was followed by the Blair government who were obsessed with distancing themselves from the trade unions.
SM: Former Conservative Cabinet Minister Theresa Villiers has backed the government’s decision, telling MPs: “While public inquiries can, in some instances, be successful, too often they cost huge amounts of money, they take many years and they don’t answer the question they’re asked”.
Do you think the cost of such inquiry could explain the decision of the government to not even start an independent review?
JD: No, cost is irrelevant when it suits them. This is just used to justify the cover up.
While the Conservative government may have rejected an inquiry at this point, those fighting for justice for the thousands of miners caught up in the Battle of Orgreave will not let the issue go away. Scisco Media asked Dunn what the next step for them would be. He simply said “watch this space”. And, with such strong support for the campaign, this is one fight for the truth that isn’t going to go away.