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Yes, now is the time to inquire into Orgreave NUM arrests
28 years ago, as a young solicitor working for Thompsons trades union solicitors, on behalf of the NUM, I represented a number of Welsh miners charged with the offence of Riot and Unlawful Assembly during events at the Orgreave Coking Works on June 18th 1984. All in all around 90 miners were charged with Riot and Unlawful Assembly for events on this day. Similar charges were brought for other days and events making a total of 150 .
The use of these charges was undoubtedly to teach the miners a lesson and to subject them to severe penalties if convicted. The maximum penalty being life imprisonment. Not a single miner was convicted on these charges. After 10 weeks the Orgreave trial ignominiously collapsed. It became clear during the course of the 10 weeks that much of the police evidence was at best unreliable and at worst fabricated. Key culprits were the South Yorkshire police who are now subject to inquiry in respect of the events at Hillsborough some 5 years later. During the course of the trial key evidence against the police disappeared and the trial judge had to order the court to be locked during breaks. Had the matter been looked into properly at the time of Hillsborough, it would have been seen that if the NUM complaints arising from Orgreave and the collapse of the trial were valid, then South Yorkshire Police had form. It is also worth noting that many of those falsely charged went on the succeed in a mass civil action against the police for damages for wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution.
Evidence that emerged during the trial led to a clear conclusion that there had been collusion between police and government on the tactics of the day which were to put it crudely , to lead the miners into a trap, give them a good hiding and send as many as possible to prison as a warning to others. The evidence was fabricated to fit the charges against the miners. Some of the evidence was embarrassingly laughable causing much mirth amongst the jury to the embarrassment of the prosecution.
After the strike despite NUM complaints, no one in authority wanted to know. Miners were exhausted, in every sense, and a new wave of pit closures was upon them. No action was ever taken against the police in respect of fabrication of evidence or the attempt to pervert the course of justice. Not a single officer was charged or disciplined for the acts of violence at Orgreave.
Ian Lavery MP for Wanbeck and a young miner at the time has called for an inquiry. The call is well made and long overdue. I support the call for an inquiry. Justice may be delayed, but the search for it never ends
An interesting article on this issue from The Guardian can be found here.
Mick Antoniw AM is Labour Assembly Member for Pontypridd