Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Inquiry into Orgreave 1984 ruled out

18th June 1984 saw a massive confrontation between striking miners and the Police at Orgreave, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire.  Previous post - Litanies of lies - Orgreave - Hillsborough.

In November 2012, South Yorkshire Police referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).  Developments relating to that referral may be seen on the IPCC website -  IPCC - Orgreave Coking Plant referrals.

In December 2015, a legal submission was given to the then Home Secretary (Theresa May MP) asking for either an independent panel (similar to that used in relation to Hillsborough) or a public inquiry. 
Mrs May did not take a decision on the matter and so the baton passed to her successor - Amber Rudd MP.    Calls for an inquiry intensified following the Hillsborough Inquest, where the jury made highly critical determinations about South Yorkshire Police (post 26th April).

On 31st October 2016, the Home Secretary announced her decision not to set up either an inquiry or an independent review and announced this to Parliament - Commons statement and see Questions to the Home Secretary 31st October at time 14.43.  The Home Secretary said that her decision was made on the basis of the evidence that she had seen and also took into account the many changes to Policing and related law since the early 1980s - (the changes are set out in the Commons statement).   During this short debate, one MP asked whether an ad hoc Select Committee could be established to examine matters.  The Home Secretary replied that this was "a very interesting suggestion" and she noted that other select committees might choose to take it up.

On 1st November, the Opposition secured an "Urgent Question" in which Andy Burnham MP sought to establish the decision-making process undertaken by the Home Secretary who was represented in this debate by the Minister of State (Brandon Lewis MP).  Burnham also asked that the Police Operational Order for Orgreave be published.  The Urgent Question debate may be viewed on Parliament TV commencing at time 12.34.  Lewis maintained the government stance that the decision was taken in the wider public interest taking into account factors such as the point that neither deaths nor wrongful convictions occurred and the extensive changes to the Police and Policing since 1984.

The Urgent Question debate revealed questions about which there remains lack of public clarity and these include the extent (if any) of Ministerial influence over operational policing at the time and the similarities between South Yorkshire Police conduct after Orgreave and after Hillsborough.  Those questions are unlikely to go away as a result of the government's decision and they will certainly remain alive in the political arena.

The Home Secretary clearly had to make a difficult decision and whether she got it "right" is for the reader to decide.  On the whole, and it is only my opinion, the decision to rule out a full public inquiry appears to be defensible but some form of independent review could usefully assess whether the cumulative changes to Policing and the associated law would prevent the type of action complained of in the future.  After all, we are asked to assume that they will.

The South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner is "dismayed" at the government's decision - see his statement.

Views expressed in the House of Lords about the Commons Statement may be read HERE


Unsurprisingly, the decision prompted a lot of media comment:

The Telegraph - Amber Rudd praised for resisting calls for Battle of Orgreave inquiry amid fears it would be 'stick to beat the Thatcher government'

BBC - Battle of Orgreave inquiry ruled out

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