Week 24: Villain – The IPCC

by Jackie_South on June 14, 2015

Police_VillainThe Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) wins our weekly award for the greatest villains of the last seven days

My gran, as many grans do, had fairly socially conservative ideas, even if she did always voted Labour.

Among those views was that you should always trust a policeman. That all changed on 18 June 1984.

You see, my grandmother lived her whole life in the South Yorkshire coalfields. Her husband was a miner, her father and both grandfathers had been miners. She wasn’t a great fan of Arthur Scargill but was far more worried by Margaret Thatcher and what she appeared hellbent on doing to my grandma’s community. And that is why (even though my grandparents were retired by then) she supported the 1984-85 Miners’ strike wholeheartedly, as did all her neighbours and all her family who lived nearby.

*****

13 miles from where she lived was the Orgreave coking plant, where coal was turned into the coke needed for the steel mills of Sheffield and Rotherham. Early in the strike, the National Union of Mineworkers had agreed to allow small amounts of coke production to continue to prevent damage to furnaces. But British Steel had broken the agreement, taking in far more coal than had been agreed. An affronted NUM decided to arrange a mass picket on 18 June to stop this, to bring British Steel back to the position agreed.

The police got wind of this, arranging for up to 8,000 policemen to ensure that the coal got in, outnumbering the pickets.

It should all have been over by 9:30 in the morning, when the lorries delivering coal and taking coke had been and gone safely. Some of the pickets had begun dispersing, some were sunbathing, others maintained their position. Rather than let things wind down, the police decided to baton charge the pickets, forcing large numbers down a nearby railway embankment onto the tracks and others into Orgreave village. Still the police pressed on, indiscriminately using batons against mostly peaceful pickets and public alike, and eventually arresting 95 miners despite the fact that by this point it was clear that the strikers were not putting up a fight. Orgreave had become a late-twentieth century Peterloo.

The trails for riot and unlawful assembly of those arrested did not take place for another year. When they did, the trials quickly collapsed and all charges were dropped. As my gran and all her community knew, the police had deliberately picked a fight that day and then lied about it. South Yorkshire police later paid compensation to 39 of the accused following legal action for assault and unlawful arrest in 1991. There is evidence that defendants’ statements were forged by the police and that police gave false statements.

*****

So it has been clear for 24 years, since the 1991 payments by the police, that their behaviour on that day was abhorrent. It was of course the same police force that  five years after Orgreave would lie about the events at Hillsborough. It seems unbelievable that the Independent Police Complaints Commission had not considered the case until recently.

Yet this week, the IPCC announced that it would not be investigating what happened, because too much time had elapsed since 1984.

Why is there this time limit to justice? Few thought that Bloody Sunday was not worth investigating because it happened in 1972. No-one thinks that the abuse by Jimmy Savile and other TV presenters in the sixties and seventies is not worth investigating. Klaus Barbie was tried 42 years after the end of WW2, John Demjanjuk 66 years after. Hillsborough was only five years later the events of Orgreave.

And of course if the IPCC had been doing its job properly in the first place, it should have started looking into Orgreave once South Yorkshire police effectively admitted fault back in 1991.

After a lifetime of being a law abiding citizen, my grandma and granddad died believing their police could not be trusted. Many living in the former coalfields of South Yorkshire still believe it to that day – in some cases, a lifetime scar from seeing the events at Orgreave in their teenage years.

If we want trust in our police to be restored, the IPCC must reconsider, and give the victims of Orgreave justice.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan Stasi June 14, 2015 at 8:41 pm

“Klaus Barbie was tried 42 years after the end of WW2, John Demjanjuk 66 years after.”

Comparing the police at Orgreave to Nazis involved in mass murder is quite frankly ridiculous.

Nobody died at Orgreave.

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Jackie_South June 14, 2015 at 11:12 pm

Dan, Of course I wasn’t drawing a direct comparison with the holocaust, I was making the point that there should not be a stopwatch on justice: a principle illustrated by the cases I cited.

If a community is still harmed by the events that should be reason enough for them to be properly investigated.

Reply

Bobby_West June 15, 2015 at 11:48 am

Relatively small point but the IPCC wasn’t established until early 2000s. Don’t know if its predecessors looked at this at all or had necessary powers to do so.

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