A union leader has slammed the violent repression of British policemen during the Miners’ Strike as he echoes calls for an inquiry.

Photographs from the time show officers in riot gear marching through pit villages to keep order on picket lines across the Durham coalfield.

There has been widespread condemnation of the use of force against colliery workers striking to sustain their livelihoods, as well as the intimidation of ordinary residents, for decades.

Now, as the country marks the 40th anniversary of the strike, Alan Mardghum, honorary secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, has shared his own experiences.

Mr Mardghum, now 68, said hard-working men from law-abiding communities found themselves up against unsympathetic officers who reminded him of the military arm of a totalitarian regime.

The Northern Echo: A striking miner is held by a policeman A striking miner is held by a policeman (Image: Keith Pattison)Mr Mardghum said: “They were given carte blanche to do anything they wanted and they were not accountable to anybody.

“They got away with horrible activities that you would not expect from police officers.

“We were always getting beaten up on the picket line. We were always getting hit and kicked and bashed. It was part and parcel of it. It was happening on a daily basis.

“They were not bothered who they hit. They could not care less.”

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The Northern Echo: Alan Mardghum was lodge committee member at Wearmouth Colliery Alan Mardghum was lodge committee member at Wearmouth Colliery (Image: Contributor)In 1984, Mr Mardghum was married to Linda and they lived in Southwick, Sunderland, with their six-year-old daughter, Lisa.

A face worker at Wearmouth Colliery, he started as a coalminer in 1977 and became the DMA’s lodge financial secretary four years later.

Mr Mardghum became lodge secretary in 1985, served on the executive committee of the DMA, and was the union’s delegate to national conferences.

He said the strike, which was called in response to the announced closure of 20 pits in Yorkshire, was ‘a necessity’.

He said: “We knew were fighting for our jobs and for our communities.

“We were fighting for the industry. We knew the NUM had been telling the truth that the Tories, Thatcher and the NCB had plans to close great swathes of the industry down We did not have any choice in the matter really.

“It was a case fight or accept that we were going to be on the dole despite the lies that were being told at the time.”

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The strike became increasingly bitter with rhetoric against the miners being ramped up by a Government determined to reduce the influence of trade unions on British politics.

The industrial dispute went on for a year and pushed families to the edges of poverty, making them reliant on food parcels and free cafes organised by women to survive.

It became increasingly bitter as some, but not many in the North East, returned to work, breaking the solidarity of the striking men.

But Mr Mardghum said he had not been prepared for the actions of police he describes as ‘corrupt’.    

He said: “There were a number of occasions when I saw lads arrested for nothing. The police were absolutely brutal.”

He admits to breaching bail conditions following an arrest for ‘strike-related activity’ by returning to the Wearmouth Colliery where the Stadium of Light now stands.

The Northern Echo: Police march through the streets of Easington Police march through the streets of Easington (Image: Keith Pattison)Mr Mardghum said: “The police were going to arrest me so I jumped in one of the picket vans and got away but they blocked the van off at the front and back.

“The one at the back had police in full riot gear. They came out and banged on the door and shouted my name to get out of the van.

“So I did but then two officers stood there blatantly lying saying I had kicked the back doors open and alighted from the van and was acting in a threatening manner, threatening to fight them.

“There were ten or 12 tooled-up riot police. It was absolute lies. Maybe it was naivety but it was a shock to hear police lying through their teeth.

“They did that constantly. That is why there should be an inquiry into the policing of the strike like they did for Hillsborough.”

Alan worked as miner until Monkwearmouth closed in December 1993 but then worked in welfare benefits and for the Probation Service before he became the General Secretary of the DMA in 2019.

Alan said he still has a criminal record from the strike, which has not caused him any problems with employment, choosing instead to wear it as ‘a badge of honour’.

But he said some men had their careers harmed by dubious prosecutions and arrests for the most spurious of reasons.

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The Northern Echo: Alan Mardghum pictured in Murton recently Alan Mardghum pictured in Murton recently (Image: Northern Echo)Alan said: “One lad stepped onto the road to pour his tea from a flask.

“He stepped off the pavement to get out of people’s way and got done for obstructing the highway. It was a travesty of justice.

“They were law-abiding good decent hard-working folk whose only crime was to fight for the right to work.

“They were treated like criminals, in fact, Thatcher called us ‘the enemy within’ and that rankled. They should all be given a pardon.  

“It might sound like I am bitter about it… and that is because I am.”