ORGREAVE REACTION: ‘We have been waiting over 30 years for answers’, says Sheffield MP calling for rethink

Harry Harpham MP at Parliament
Harry Harpham MP at Parliament
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Former miner and Sheffield MP Harry Harpham has called for ministers to ‘think again’ after it was confirmed that an investigation will not take place into the conduct of police at the Battle of Orgreave.

The clash between picketing miners and police in June 1984, during the national miners strike, saw 94 people arrested.

When the cases came to court, all were abandoned due to unreliable evidence and later South Yorkshire Police paid out £425,000 in out-of-court settlements to 39 pickets.

But the Independent Police Complaints Commission has today announced it will not continue to investigate the incident.

Mr Harpham, MP for Hillsborough and Brightside, said: “Former miners and their families have been extremely patient while waiting for the IPCC’s decision, and this will be a bitter disappointment to all those who have campaigned over so many years to get to the truth.

“The events of 18th June left a deep mark on South Yorkshire. I was a miner out on strike in ’84, so I can well understand the frustration that people will be feeling today.

“We have been waiting over 30 years for answers, only to be told that there will be no attempt to get to the bottom of what happened.

“In recent years South Yorkshire Police have worked hard to rebuild trust in ex-mining communities, and I was encouraged that in their referral to the IPCC they were prepared to accept that senior officers may have broken the law.

“Campaigners have been calling for an inquiry, not to reopen old wounds, but to build on that greater transparency and get the justice that ex-miners and their families deserve.

“The IPCC’s decision has scotched their hopes, and I urge both the IPCC and Cabinet Office ministers to think again and take steps to launch the inquiry that has been so long delayed.”

The IPCC said the ‘passage of time’ and its impact on an investigation, plus the fact that many police officers had now retired so no disciplinary action could be taken, were considered as part of the decision.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, has also said that ‘the decision of the IPCC not to investigate the events of Orgreave is likely to satisfy no one.

“It does not bring closure for the former miners, their families and communities.

“Their sense of justice denied will continue. The psychological and emotional wounds will persist.

“But in suggesting, in effect, that the events of Orgreave should be investigated by a bigger public enquiry, the IPCC also prolongs the uncertainties that hang over those South Yorkshire police officers who were present at Orgreave and will cause dismay to the present generation of police officers who want to acknowledge past mistakes and move to a better place.

“None of this will help to rebuild trust and confidence between the former mining communities of South Yorkshire and the police.

“I would understand why the former miners would want a thorough inquiry: they want to know the truth and they want closure after so many years. However, any such enquiry should not be allowed to be protracted and the costs would have to be borne by the national government and not fall on the present generation of South Yorkshire taxpayers.”

Michael Dugher, MP for Barnsley East, said the decision not to investigate was ‘shameful.’

He added: “It is vital that we get to the truth and the Government must now act.

“The victims and their families have suffered their injustice for far too long and deserve a proper independent investigation along the lines of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

“Recently released Cabinet papers from the Thatcher years confirmed that the government at the time sought to influence police tactics during the strike.

“As well as a proper investigation into Orgreave, we also still need full transparency of all government communications with the police at the time of the strike.

“It’s now time for justice for the Orgreave families and for all former coalfield communities.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, has also condemned the decision.

She said: “This decision is a hammer blow for the Orgreave families who have fought for over 30 years to get justice. They have displayed huge courage and tenacity in trying to hold the authorities to account.

“It is shameful that no-one will have to answer for the events of that day, which left dozens injured and many locked up for simply exercising their right to protest.

“There should be a full public inquiry into what happened at Orgreave. This is a bad day for all those who care about civil liberties.”

Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey said: “I am really disappointed by the IPCC’s decision not to investigate Orgreave.

“Almost a year ago I warned the IPCC that this must not kicked be kicked into the long grass because it was already 20 months after their ‘scoping’ review had begun.

“I told the IPCC that Orgreave was still sharp in the memories of people in South Yorkshire which is why it’s so important to have a proper investigation to get to the truth and give the community a sense that justice has been done.

“Now it looks like the IPCC have sat on their announcement until after the election, and are happy to refuse an investigation now the Tories are back in government.

“We need an independent inquiry, because we need the truth.

“Just as we have learned with the Hillsborough independent panel, an inquiry opens up fresh evidence as well as giving those who suffered injustice the chance to have their say.”