Previously unseen documents suggesting that a politically motivated operation involving the police and courts was launched against miners involved in the 1984 Orgreave confrontation in Yorkshire will be used to put fresh pressure on the home secretary to announce a public inquiry at a meeting with campaigners this week.
A legal case has been lodged with the Home Office which, it is claimed, offers evidence of the wrongful arrest of 95 miners, the deliberate falsification of a narrative against them from the outset, the immediate presentation of that false narrative by police to the media and its uncritical acceptance by the latter.
At a meeting with the home secretary, Amber Rudd, on Tuesday, a delegation from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign will demand action over claims police officers were also guilty of usurping parliamentary supervision and redefining the law in a pre-planned, militarised police operation.
They are using documents discovered during the recent Hillsborough inquest, from the release of cabinet papers under the 30-year rule and from the findings of the recent Independent Police Complaints Commission scoping exercise to back up their demands.
In June last year the IPCC concluded that a full inquiry into the event was needed after it found manipulation and concealment of evidence in both the criminal trial of 95 arrested miners and the subsequent civil litigation.
The IPCC stated that there was evidence to suggest officers under the command of the South Yorkshire police assaulted miners and used excessive force, then committed perjury and perverted the course of justice in the prosecutions, which collapsed a year later.
Among the documents that can now be made public are minutes of a meeting held in Downing Street attended by the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher, home secretary Leon Brittan and attorney general Sir Michael Havers, which campaigners claim reveals an attempt to smear the miners, improperly intervene in police operational matters and fast-track prosecutions, despite concerns at the time over the weakness of evidence.
A month after Orgreave, the document, marked secret and personal, records Brittan telling the prime minister that arrangements had been set in place to collect regular and comprehensive information on the incidence of intimidation in the dispute and that he envisaged that publicity should be given to this information on appropriate occasions.
The minutes add that the group …invited the home secretary, consulting the lord chancellor and attorney general, to pursue vigorously all possible means of accelerating the prosecution of alleged offences arising from the dispute, and to report further to the group.
Two weeks later a second document shows that Brittan promised he would seek to persuade them [the police] to increase the rate of prosecutions, a proposal that was given Thatcher’s support.
A third document from the same month, minuting a meeting of the same group of cabinet ministers and the prime minister discussing industrial action in the coal industry, reports that the home secretary revealed that he had made it clear to them [South Yorkshire Police Authority] that proposals to phase out all horse and some dogs from the South Yorkshire force would result in a failure to carry out their statutory responsibility to maintain an efficient police force.
A fourth document has Brittan telling the group that lists of cases were being examined and hearings of the the more serious cases was being speeded up, and that it would be helpful if greater publicity could be given to sentences imposed by courts, particularly the more severe ones.
Andy Burnham, the shadow home secretary, said that the entire cache of documents – only some of which have been shared with the Observer – made the case for a public inquiry into Orgreave undeniable.
He said: One of Theresa May’s great achievements as home secretary was her willingness to face up to past injustice. But we must continue to go wherever the evidence trail takes us and we cannot be selective about which events we investigate. After the Hillsborough inquest, the evidence trail led quite clearly to Orgreave and these new revelations today establish an undeniable case for an inquiry. These documents appear to show undue political involvement in operational matters and the legal process. Miners, their families and their communities have waited long enough for the truth and there is now no legitimate reason why it can be denied.
A letter published in the Observer, signed by 40 MPs and peers including Burnham, the Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas, and David Cameron’s former trade union adviser Lord Balfe, has also been sent to Rudd.
In 1991, £425,000 was paid in compensation to 39 miners who sued for assault, wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution. But the force admitted no wrong-doing and no officer was ever disciplined.
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