Orgreave campaigners 'misled' over inquiry into miners' strike clash

The Battle of Orgreave
The Battle of Orgreave
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Campaigners for an official inquiry into the Battle of Orgreave claim they were misled by Home Secretary Amber Rudd into believing there would be a probe.

In a move described as an 'establishment stitch-up', Ms Rudd rejected calls for a statutory inquiry or independent review into a violent confrontation between police officers and picketing miners at the Orgreave coking plant in 1984.

Ms Rudd said she made the 'difficult decision', supported by Prime Minister Theresa May, because 'ultimately there were no deaths or wrongful convictions' resulting from the conduct of South Yorkshire Police.

But Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh and campaigners said they were misled, as Mrs May sounded positive while she was Home Secretary and Ms Rudd told them the only question she had to consider was what format the inquiry would take.

Speaking to reporters outside Parliament, Ms Haigh said: "I absolutely think she (Ms Rudd) misled us, I think Theresa May set up the campaigners and Amber Rudd did at the last meeting.

"She (Ms Rudd) said, her exact words were, she had to decide what format it would take. It wasn't a question for us of whether or not it would happen, it was in what form it would take.

"She said the culture had changed now, that a light needed to be shone on things like this, and that's why we absolutely believed that this decision would be positive today."

Kevin Horne, of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, said he felt 'custard-pied'.

Asked if campaigners felt misled, Mr Horne said: "Yes, (by) Theresa May and Amber Rudd.

"Theresa May sounded really positive when we met her, and then Amber Rudd is talking about formats for an inquiry.

"And now today we've just been custard-pied.

"We are really disappointed, to say the least, and the fight will go on, there's no doubt about that. We'll get there one day."

There were cries of 'disgraceful' and 'shameful' from Labour MPs as Ms Rudd detailed her decision in the House of Commons, while campaigners in the public gallery could be seen shaking their heads at her comments.

Former shadow home secretary Andy Burnham told the Commons: "Given that the Independent Police Complaints Commission found evidence of perjury and perversion of the course of justice, and given that in the last month new evidence has emerged from former police officers who were at Orgreave of orchestrated violence and the mass manufacture of police statements, are we right in concluding the establishment stitch-up that she has just announced today is nothing more than a nakedly political act?"

Ms Rudd denied it was a political decision.

Earlier in a written ministerial statement, she said there had been 'very significant changes' in the oversight of policing which meant there would be 'very few lessons for the policing system today to be learned from any review of the events and practices of three decades ago'.

In what became known as the Battle of Orgreave, 6,000 police officers from around the country - many in riot gear and some on horseback - were deployed at the plant on June 18, 1984 to deal with mass picketing by striking miners hoping to prevent the movement of coke stocks.

A series of charges by mounted police and baton-wielding 'snatch squads' resulted in 95 miners being charged with riot or violent disorder, but trials collapsed when police accounts turned out to be unreliable.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings said he was 'shocked and dismayed' by yesterday's announcement.

"The Government have marched the campaign for truth and justice to the top of the hill only to march them down again," he said.

"I am not convinced by the reasons given for refusing an investigation.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was 'appalled' that the Government ruled out inquiry into Orgreave, claiming it was 'denying truth and justice for victims and their families'.

Chris Peace, of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, said the group would seek legal advice on how to proceed.

She said: "We say the decision is deeply disappointing and absolutely unacceptable.

"It is nearly 32 years since 95 miners were arrested at Orgreave, now some of those miners are dead and the surviving ones face the prospect of more time, more delay, before we get truth and justice.

"But we are determined people and the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign will continue to build on the already wide support for a full independent inquiry.

"We will not give up."