South Yorkshire police are to be investigated for possible assault, perjury, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public office over the infamous “battle of Orgreave” during the 1984-85 miners’ strike.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it had received a referral from South Yorkshire police itself, relating both to what happened at the Orgreave coking plant, near Rotherham, on 18 June 1984, and a year later when 95 miners prosecuted for alleged riot and lawful assembly were all acquitted.
Television footage and photographs at Orgreave showed miners being beaten with truncheons by police, some in riot gear and some on horses, who claimed they were attacked first by the miners picketing the plant.
South Yorkshire police decided miners arrested at Orgreave for public order offences such as throwing stones would be prosecuted for riot or unlawful assembly, which carried a potential life sentence.
All were acquitted on 17 July 1985 when the prosecution withdrew after the police’s oral and written evidence in court had been discredited.
Each prosecution was supported by two police officers making near-identical statements.
One admitted in court that sections of his statement had been dictated by a plainclothes officer at the police’s temporary headquarters on the day. One officer’s signature was analysed and found not to have been in his handwriting.
Michael Mansfield QC, who represented three acquitted miners, described South Yorkshire police’s evidence then as “the biggest frame-up ever.”
In April, the Guardian revealed the connection between Orgreave and the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, also policed by the South Yorkshire force.
After the report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel in September, the IPCC and director of public prosecutions are investigating South Yorkshire police for possible misconduct over Hillsborough.
Last month, the BBC’s Inside Out programme revealed further detail of the extent to which dozens of officers’ statements after Orgreave contained identical passages, to build a description of rioting by the miners.
In a statement on Friday, the police complaints body said: “The IPCC received a referral from South Yorkshire police on Wednesday 14 November relating to incidents at Orgreave between May 1984 and June 1985 during the miners’ strike.
“This referral contains allegations of assault, perjury, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public office. The IPCC must now assess the information contained within this referral to determine how the matter should be dealt with.”
South Yorkshire police confirmed: “Following media reports about the handling of proceedings during the miners’ strike of 1985-85 and specifically after incidents at Orgreave, South Yorkshire police voluntarily referred matters to the IPCC.”
Chris Kitchen, the general-secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, who was at Orgreave as a 17-year-old on strike, said feelings remain “very strong and raw” about the police’s conduct during the strike. “We believe that miners were led into a trap at Orgreave that day; men were clearly assaulted,” he said.