Unite members can help win justice for Ogreave miners
As one of the stalwarts of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC), Joe Rollin, a Unite industrial organiser from Barnsley, wants Unite members who have been very supportive so far to help provide the final push to persuade the home secretary Theresa May to order a public inquiry into the policing of events at the Orgreave Coking Plant on more than thirty years ago on June 18, 1984.
May is expected to announce shortly the outcome of her examination of the OTJC’s legal case, which was submitted in support of an inquiry late last year. Since then, of course, an inquest jury has concluded that 96 Liverpool fans who lost their lives after a crush at Hillsborough in 1989 were unlawfully killed. Both Orgreave and Hillsborough were overseen by South Yorkshire Police (SYP).
“Since we started out in November 2012, OTJC has enjoyed significant support from Unite members and from other trade unionists,” Rollin said.
“Now we really need everyone who can do so to attend this year’s rally on Saturday, June 18 at Orgreave. We also want as many letters as possible sent to Theresa May, who has informed us that the delay in responding is because she is considering carefully our detailed submission asking her to set up an independent public inquiry or panel.
The legal submission, which was prepared voluntarily by four barristers, was submitted after the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) took nearly three years to conduct an initial investigation that concluded it didn’t have the resources to undertake a full-scale investigation. The police watchdog also indicated it could not locate important documents such as the police operational orders that were drawn up in advance of June 18, 1984.
On that day, 95 miners were arrested when thousands of police officers from across the country brutally assaulted miners striking to defend jobs and mining communities. At subsequent court cases the evidence presented by SYP was heavily discredited and 39 miners were later awarded out of court settlements.
Yet no police officers, some of whom were told not to write anything in their note books on June 18 were ever charged of any offence despite conclusive evidence of assault, perjury, preventing the course of justice and misconduct in public office. Five years later at Hillsborough, history repeated itself when police officers were also instructed not to write anything in their note books. Some of the same senior officers were involved in the aftermath of both scandals.
Tell us the truth
This has led to the shadow home secretary Andy Burnham, who is one of the invited speakers on at this year’s rally, to state “underhand tactics were first used against South Yorkshire miners before being deployed to much more deadly effect against Liverpool supporters.”
“Like the people of Liverpool, the South Yorkshire mining communities now need to be told the truth about their police force and the policing of the miners’ strike,” he said.
Burnham is one of dozens of Labour MPs who are backing calls for a public inquiry and they have been joined by Nick Timothy, who was the home secretary’s most senior advisor until last year, and David Jones, the interim chief constable at SYP, who has said he would welcome “an appropriate independent assessment” of events in 1984.
Joe Rollin, who has chaired the OTJC throughout its existence, thinks this makes it likely that Theresa May, who when the campaign met with her in July last year listened intently and indicated she was concerned about the legacy of mistrust within mining communities towards the police, will order an inquiry.
“What we want is one that has the power to get to the truth,” Rollin said. “Support from Unite members at our rally and in submitting letters can help make this possible.”
The Orgreave Anniversary Rally on Saturday June 18 starts at 5pm at The Old Bridge, Orgreave Lane, Sheffield S13 9NE.
Among the speakers are Tosh McDonald, ASLEF President, barrister Michael Mansfield, ex-miner Kevin Horne and Barbara Jackson of OTJC. Find out more here.