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11 May 2016

After Hillsborough verdict...

Independent inquiry into Orgreave now!

Simon Carter

"It's time for a public inquiry into the policing of the miners' strike (1984-85), not just Orgreave and the role of the police, but also the role of politicians. We need to look at the wider context of the way the police were used and the agenda set for them by government."

Surprisingly this comment is from Sir Peter Fahy, former chief constable of Greater Manchester Police. Fahy says the politicisation of police under Thatcher created a culture of class hatred, as shown in the police response at the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster.

It was on 18 June 1984 when thousands of riot police, many on horseback, brutally attacked a mass picket of striking miners at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire. Orgreave was one of many police assaults on striking miners and mining communities during the year-long strike.

Hundreds of miners on that day were injured, some seriously. Many were arrested, and 95 charged with 'unlawful assembly'. The subsequent trial of these miners collapsed after six weeks because the police evidence was unreliable.

There is plentiful evidence of police assaulting striking miners, and subsequently perverting the course of justice and committing perjury. Despite this, the so-called Independent Police Complaints Commission said last year it would not pursue a criminal investigation into police actions "because of the passage of time".

That decision amounted to a whitewash of the role of South Yorkshire Police, and indeed the Tory government. Thatcher's aim was to crush the strike by the National Union of Mineworkers, in order to break organised workers' resistance to pit closures and privatisation.


The violence perpetrated by South Yorkshire police at Orgreave, which has gone unpunished, was one in a string of disgraceful and potentially criminal actions. These include the Hillsborough football stadium tragedy in 1989, with 96 dead. And covering up the child sex abuse scandal in Rotherham between 2007 and 2010.

In a further development, Hayley Court, a former media specialist for South Yorkshire police, says she was pressured to "spin" coverage of the Hillsborough inquests in favour of the police.

Dave Jones, the new interim head of South Yorkshire Police - after the suspension of David Crompton following the Hillsborough inquest verdict that police unlawfully killed 96 victims - has offered Orgreave justice campaigners "a hearing".

The Orgeave Truth and Justice Campaign has long fought for a full and independent public inquiry into the 'Battle of Orgreave'. The Socialist Party backs this campaign.