The following article by Mark Metcalf first appeared on the Unite Live website and focuses on the struggle for justice over events at Orgreave during the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike, which we reported on recently. It also features our former Unite Community Co-ordinator, Joe Rollin.
Unite has backed the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC) since its inception over three years ago. One of the campaign stalwarts is Unite industrial organiser Joe Rollin from Barnsley (pictured).
Joe is now urging “trade unionists to back the events we are planning, which are intended to demonstrate to the home secretary Theresa May that there is popular support for a public inquiry or Hillsborough-style independent panel into events at Orgreave in 1984. ”
On Tuesday (December 15) the OTJC treasurer Chris Peace and Mike McColgan presented its 86-page legal submission to Theresa May. She had indicated her willingness to consider an inquiry request following widespread media coverage in June of the OTJC’s condemnation of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) decision not to conduct a full investigation.
The IPCC had taken over two-and-a-half years to conduct an initial investigation only to conclude that it didn’t have the resources to conduct a full-scale investigation. The police watchdog indicated that it had been unable to get to the truth as it could not locate a series of important documents, including the police operational orders that were drawn up in advance of June 18, 1984.
At the Battle of Orgreave that day, 95 miners were arrested after thousands of police officers – many in riot gear, with others on horseback – brutally assaulted miners participating in a year-long strike aimed at defending jobs and mining communities.
When the cases came to court they were all abandoned after the evidence by South Yorkshire Police (SYP) was heavily discredited and later the force made out of court settlements to 39 miners. Yet no police officers were ever charged of any offence despite clear evidence of assault, perjury, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public offence.
According to former printworker Joe this has left, “a legacy of mistrust within mining communities of the police and it is one of reasons I joined the OTJC.”
The OTJC legal submission has been prepared voluntarily by four barristers, including Michael Mansfield QC and Gareth Pierce, both of whom represented miners at the original trial.
“We have worked closely with the legal team and I’m very proud of everyone involved. There is some quite sensitive material within our submission but in addition to written testimonies we have also included lots of photographs to back up each section,” says Joe.
The submission was presented after the OTJC met with May in July. Joe says the meeting was “very positive. Now I hope the home secretary will see how strong the case is for either a public inquiry or an independent panel similar to one that investigated the Hillsborough disaster.”
Joe and the campaign won’t though be sitting waiting for May to contact them. “Ever since SYP referred themselves in November 2012 to the IPCC over Orgreave we have constantly sought to show that there is popular support for our cause.
“By adopting a very professional attitude we have won over many sections of the press, even those who aren’t on our side have adopted a position of respect, and the events we’ve organised have been well backed.
“Unite has supported the campaign and many Unite members have attended previous events. In the New Year we are planning some very imaginative events and we want them involved again. So watch this space because this important struggle continues.”
Get involved with the Orgreave Justice campaign here