South Yorkshire Police lays blame for months-long hold-up at insurers' door
SOUTH Yorkshire Police faces legal action as exasperated official investigators try to make it release documentary evidence regarding the 1984 “battle of Orgreave,” which saw police run riot attacking striking miners.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) was pushed to involve the courts, the Star was informed yesterday, after five months of procrastination from the force.
Commission watchdogs have been baffled by the hold up, as inquiries only began after South Yorkshire Police referred itself following the launch of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) in November 2012.
And in a bizarre twist last night South Yorkshire Police attempted to blame its insurers for the spat. A force representative told the Star it “does not physically possess these documents.
“They were held by the force’s insurers at the time, and the firm acting for the force’s current insurers claims the documents are partly the property of our former insurers and their consent would be required to release them.
“South Yorkshire Police is in negotiation with the firm to obtain the documents.”
Since OTJC’s launch two years ago the IPCC has been conducting a “scoping exercise” into whether or not a full investigation should be opened, and campaigners have expressed frustration at an ongoing delay in reaching a decision.
On Friday a delegation from OTJC met the IPCC chairwoman Dame Ann Owers, where they were told about the missing documents.
Delegation member NUM general secretary Chris Kitchen said: “The chairwoman of the IPCC said that in June they had identified five boxes of documents in relation to Orgreave, and South Yorkshire Police has so far refused to hand them over. They are now at the point where they are going to enforce this.
“They tried to negotiate the release of the documents. They have not been able to do so. They are at the end of the negotiations with South Yorkshire Police and are at the point of taking action to force them to hand them over.”
Legislation governing the remit of the IPCC includes the right to force the release of evidence if it is not given willingly — a power known as Section 17.
OTJC secretary Barbara Jackson said: “The IPCC have been trying since June to obtain material from South Yorkshire Police that they need to analyse. If necessary they will serve a Section 17 letter demanding compliance with the request. They will use legal powers to obtain the material if compliance is not forthcoming.”
The IPCC is expected to release an initial report into its findings on Orgreave in the new year.
OTJC is demanding a public inquiry into police violence during the 1984 miners’ strike against pickets at Orgreave coking plant outside Rotherham, South Yorkshire, on June 18 of that year.
Hundreds of miners were battered and bloodied in repeated police charges and 95 pickets were charged with riot. All charges were thrown out of court after revelations that police fabricated evidence and South Yorkshire Police has so far had to pay out £425,000 in compensation, but no police officer was prosecuted or even disciplined over the affair.
“The campaign will continue to work for a full public inquiry which we believe is the only way to expose the police violence and fabrication of police statements relating to the Orgreave coking plant picket during the miners’ strike,” Ms Jackson added.