CALLS for an inquiry into the policing of the 1980s miners’ strike grew last night, after North-East MPs and union leaders added their voices to a campaign for justice within coalfield communities.
Activists are demanding a fresh investigation into the conduct of police officers on the picket lines of pits across the country.
A coalition of unions, campaigners and lawyers want to erase the criminal records of the estimated 7,000 men detained and "falsely charged" during the bitter unrest of 1984-85.
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But, in the wake of damning reports into the behaviour of police during the Hillsborough disaster, calls have also been made to review the way the carried out their duties on the front line amid allegations of police brutality.
David Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners Association, said: “We would like to think we could resurrect some of the cases and have them re-examined to see if they can do anything. It was a long time ago but there is still a lot of bitterness about what the police got away with and the way they were used as an arm of the state.
“They were prepared to send people to jail for long sentences who were innocent.”
Last week, Easington MP Grahame Morris co-signed an early day motion tabled by Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, asking for the Director of Public Prosecutions to deliver "a full comprehensive inquiry into the policing of the miners' strike throughout the UK to ensure miners, their families and communities finally receive the justice they deserve". It comes in the wake of a BBC documentary about the 1984 clash between police and pickets at Orgreave, the British Steel coking plant in South Yorkshire where 95 miners were charged with riot and unlawful assembly, but acquitted a year later.
The South Yorkshire force referred itself to the policing watchdog over the Battle of Orgreave and the Independent Police Complaints Commission has confirmed it is looking at allegations of assault, perjury, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public office.
A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said that the CPS had yet to be contacted by the IPCC in relation to Orgreave.
He said: “We would then, of course, work closely with them and advise them during that process.”
MPs said an inquiry should be widened to hold other forces to account for what happened in the North-East as well.
Mr Morris said: “There should be another look at what has happened and an amnesty for people who have carried false conviction for over 25 years. It has been a stain on their characters and in many cases has prevented them from getting gainful employment. It is also a huge stain on the police’s history.”
The NUM said around sixty per cent of the 11,000 miners arrested during the strike were held on ‘bogus’ grounds.
Michael Mansfield QC, who also acts for the Hillsborough Family Support Group, is currently reviewing evidence of police assaults against miners, and campaigners.
Calls for a far-reaching inquiry have been echoed by North Durham MP Kevan Jones, who said: “In some cases law abiding people have gained criminal records, which have stopped them getting jobs, and reputations have been damaged by this.
“There was a culture at the time to vilify those who were on strike and now is the time to have look at these cases again, especially if police evidence was falsified.”