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It’s never too late for Justice – Chris Peace, Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign

“Scotland & the Shrewsbury cases have shown that it is never too late for justice. The Orgreave Truth & Justice Campaign maintains it’s never too late for the ex-miners, their families, supporters & communities either.”

Chris Peace.

By Chris Peace, Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign

This year marks 37 years since the start of the 1984-85 Miners’ strike and the 9 years since the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign was established to campaign for an independent inquiry into the events of the 18th June 1984 at the Orgreave coking plant near Sheffield.

The campaign is now well established and more determined than ever to ensure that there is accountability for the actions of the Tory government of the day, interfering in the policing of the miners’ strike for political reasons, and changing the lives of working people in those ex-mining communities forever.

The 2016 Home Secretary Amber Rudd, announced in October of that year that there would be no public inquiry into what happened at Orgreave and since that decision our fight has continued, driven by further documentation coming to light and locating further police files relating to the miners’ strike that are embargoed until 2066.

Since 2016, the Scottish Parliament ordered and in 2020 accepted the findings of an independent review led by John Scott QC into the policing of the strike in Scotland. This decision means that many miners convicted of offences during the strike potentially could now be pardoned. The importance of this decision not only shows Westminster to be out of step by denying English and Welsh miners the same, but also strengthens our campaign’s cry that it is never too late for Justice, and the verity of that is further emphasised with news on one of our sister justice campaign’s this week.

The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign pays huge tribute to the Official Shrewsbury 24 campaign who this week see the cases of the 12 pickets that they represent finally have their convictions considered by the Court of Appeal this Wednesday and Thursday. On the back of the work of the campaign 2 further ex-pickets have also now been able to join in the appeal. The injustice these ex-construction workers suffered goes back to 1972 and the appeal is the result of years of campaigning and investigation by many of the pickets and the Campaign’s Researcher and Secretary, Eileen Turnbull. The information and documentation they have unearthed first led to the Criminal Cases Review Commission considering reopening the cases and, when this initially failed, to the successful Judicial Review of that decision and this week’s hearing in the Court of Appeal. We wish them all good luck and best wishes that at last justice prevails for them.

Unlike Shrewsbury, none of the 95 miners charged with offences for riot and unlawful assembly on 18th June 1984 at Orgreave were convicted. The Sheffield Crown Court dismissed the cases of the first 15 of these miners to stand trial in July 1985, following the collapse of the prosecution case once police officers were cross-examined and it becoming clear to the prosecution that the evidence they presented was so unreliable the trial could not continue. In due course all 95 miners had their cases dropped.

Immediately following this there were calls for an inquiry into how the cases ever came to trial and the actions of the police, not just into the unprecedented violent and military-style policing deployed on the day, policing that resulted in many serious injuries to miners, but into the subsequent manufacturing of evidence that was presented at trial. Several Labour MPs, MPs who had supported the miners throughout the year strike, including Tony Benn, Martin Flannery, Dennis Skinner and Jeremy Corbyn along with the NUM called for an inquiry back in 1985.

The campaign has now secured the release of papers that demonstrate the push back against such an inquiry by the Tory government was live back then. What the campaign has not managed to do is secure the release of, or indeed even an explanation why, the Tory government of today does not want the embargoed papers in the public domain until 2066. We are unaware of any other such embargo of papers relating to the policing of industrial action to be withheld from public scrutiny for this extraordinary length of time.

We have secured the promise that a future Labour government will order an inquiry into Orgreave when in power, a decision taken by the previous Labour Leadership and a decision we are pleased to be assured will be upheld by the current Leadership. The campaign however will continue to pressure the current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, into acting and the fact the Scottish Parliament has acted over matters they do have jurisdiction over helps make the argument that there is no time limitation for scrutiny and justice.

The campaign repeatedly make the point that there are many lessons to be learnt from the actions of the state during the strike, lessons to do with political ideology driving the behaviour of our police, lessons to do with the policing of protest which has recently been questioned over last year’s Black Lives Matter protests as well as the successful appeals of the Stansted 15, who had their convictions overturned last week.

The lockdown has not shut down the work of our campaign. We are busier than ever fighting for our aims, attending online meetings and growing support for our cause. In addition we have also been speaking out strongly, as many other activists have, against the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill currently being rushed through Parliament, a Bill which has serious implications for trade unions and campaigners.

Scotland and the Shrewsbury cases have shown that it is never too late for justice. The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign maintains it’s never too late for the ex-miners, their families, supporters and communities either. Moreover, for everyone, a just and proper inquiry into those events is not just paramount for those directly affected but for the government of our democratic society to assure its citizen’s that it is not afraid to hold itself to account for mistakes of the past.

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