The Government will not reveal whether a new inquiry will be launched into the 1984 Battle of Orgreave until after criminal investigations into the Hillsborough disaster are complete, it emerged today.
Campaigners have been pressing former Home Secretary Theresa May for months to order a new probe into the clashes between striking miners and South Yorkshire Police at the Orgreave coking plant.
If that is the state of play and we are going to be backed up behind any charges over Hillsborough, it is going to be in the long grass.Granville Williams
But in a statement in the House of Lords today, it was announced that the Government will not reveal its position until the two criminal probes into Britain’s worst sporting disaster have concluded. It means it will be at least another five months, if not longer, before a decision is made public.
Operation Resolve, which focuses on what happened on the day of the Hillsborough disaster and pre-match planning, and an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) into the alleged cover-up in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster, will conclude around the end of 2016.
At that point, the Crown Prosecution Service is expected to take between three and six month to decide whether charges such as gross negligence manslaughter or misconduct in a public office will be brought.
Lord Keen, the Home Office’s spokesman in the House of Lords, said today: “The Home Secretary has been considering a submission from campaigners on the need for an inquiry into the events at Orgreave.
“The IPCC is working with the CPS to assess whether material related to the policing of Orgreave is relevant to the Hillsborough criminal investigations. Decisions are yet to be made by them on whether any criminal proceedings will be brought as a result.
“The Government’s position will be announced to Parliament after this.”
Last night, the Home Office refused to clarify whether it would be making the announcement once a decision has been made on criminal proceedings for those involved in Hillsborough, or wait until the proceedings ended.
Granville Williams, one of the founders of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, which submitted a dossier of evidence to the Home Office in December, said the news was “very disappointing”.
He said: “If that is the state of play and we are going to be backed up behind any charges over Hillsborough, it is going to be in the long grass.”
It emerged this week that the IPCC would not be publishing an unredacted version of its 2015 ‘scoping report’ into Orgreave, which revealed links between the scandal and the Hillsborough disaster five years later.
In May, The Yorkshire Post revealed that in redacted sections of the report, it was disclosed that the same senior officers and solicitor were involved both in the aftermath of Orgreave and the Britain’s worst ever sporting disaster.
It was also revealed that these officials became aware South Yorkshire Police officers had perjured themselves at the miners’ trial in 1984, but kept this fact secret.
Another officer interviewed about the alleged Hillsborough cover-up by South Yorkshire Police claimed that some of his colleagues were told by unspecified officers not to write anything in their notebooks at the time of Orgreave and then instructed to do the same in the aftermath of the 1989 disaster.
The bitter dispute at Orgreave in June 1984 resulted in dozens of injuries on both sides. Pickets later complained of excessive force by some of the around 6,000 officers brought in for the strike.
A total of 95 miners were charged following the disturbances, but their trial collapsed.
South Yorkshire Police referred itself to the IPCC in 2012 over allegations officers colluded to write court statements.
The watchdog later said the passage of time prevented a formal investigation, but said there was “support” for the allegation that senior police exaggerated pickets’ use of violence.
The IPCC said it had decided not to publish the unredacted report after consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service.
It said: “This is because there may be some material within that report which is relevant to the current Hillsborough investigation.”