Com­mis­sioner calls for Or­g­reave panel

Ex­perts could ex­am­ine and pub­lish se­cret files

Yorkshire Post - - FRONT PAGE - CLAIRE WILDE CRIME COR­RE­SPON­DENT ■ Email: claire.wilde@jpress.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @ClaireWildeYP

PO­LICE: An in­de­pen­dent panel should be set up to ex­am­ine the ac­tions of South York­shire Po­lice dur­ing the Bat­tle of Or­g­reave, its po­lice and crime com­mis­sioner has said.

Dr Alan Billings said it would al­low hun­dreds of se­cret po­lice files about the clash with pick­ets dur­ing the min­ers’ strike to be brought into the pub­lic do­main.

AN IN­DE­PEN­DENT panel should be set up to ex­am­ine the ac­tions of South York­shire Po­lice dur­ing the Bat­tle of Or­g­reave, its po­lice and crime com­mis­sioner has said.

Dr Alan Billings said cen­tral fund­ing would be needed for the ex­er­cise, which would also al­low hun­dreds of se­cret po­lice files about the clash with pick­ets dur­ing the min­ers’ strike to be brought into the pub­lic do­main for the first time.

He said it could be a way for­ward af­ter the Home Of­fice “closed the door firmly” on calls for a full pub­lic in­quiry.

Thou­sands of pick­ets and po­lice of­fi­cers clashed at Or­g­reave in some of the most vi­o­lent con­fronta­tions in the year-long min­ers’ strike. A to­tal of 95 peo­ple were charged with riot and vi­o­lent dis­or­der but their cases were dropped.

Cam­paign­ers have long been call­ing for po­lice files about the events to be made pub­lic, claim­ing that strik­ing min­ers were as­saulted and ar­rested with­out cause. Dr Billings said he wanted to em­u­late the model of the Hills­bor­ough In­de­pen­dent Panel, in which a team over­saw the dis­clo­sure of doc­u­ments about the dis­as­ter as well as pub­lish­ing a re­port.

He said: “We need some­thing like that but it costs money and we are not a force that has got spare change.”

South York­shire Po­lice has al­ready com­mit­ted to pub­lish­ing the bulk of the files and the of­fice of the po­lice and crime com­mis­sioner has been pay­ing an ar­chiv­ist to as­sem­ble and cat­a­logue all the force’s doc­u­ments about the Bat­tle of Or­g­reave, a process which Dr Billings said is “more or less com­plete now”.

He said the “even­tual aim is to get all that into the pub­lic do­main” but that some in­for­ma­tion, such as pri­vate med­i­cal de­tails, would need to be redacted.

He said these redac­tions needed to be done “in a way that the Or­g­reave Truth and Jus­tice Cam­paign and the ex-min­ers and the min­ing com­mu­ni­ties find ac­cept­able – ie that we are not try­ing to cover any­thing up”.

He said: “The terms of any in­de­pen­dent panel would have to be agreed be­tween South York­shire Po­lice and Or­g­reave Truth and Jus­tice Cam­paign. Both par­ties would need to be able to trust and have con­fi­dence in the mem­bers. Or­g­reave Truth and Jus­tice Cam­paign in par­tic­u­lar, and the wider pub­lic, would want to be re­as­sured that ma­te­rial was only be­ing redacted for those le­git­i­mate rea­sons, and not to hide in­con­ve­nient truth.”

Bar­bara Jack­son, a found­ing mem­ber of the Or­g­reave Truth and Jus­tice Cam­paign, said the idea of an in­de­pen­dent panel was one they would con­sider.

“But an enor­mous ques­tion about it is who is go­ing to fund it?” she said.

A spokes­woman for South York­shire Po­lice said once the ar­chiv­ist had com­pleted the re­view­ing and cat­a­logu­ing work, the force would seek to “place the doc­u­ments in a recog­nised pub­lic ar­chive”.

But a Home Of­fice spokesman said the Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion that there would be no in­quiry into the events at Or­g­reave was made af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of the key pur­poses of an in­quiry and tak­ing into ac­count how the polic­ing land­scape had changed fun­da­men­tally since 1984.

It costs money and we are not a force that has spare change. Dr Alan Billings, po­lice and crime com­mis­sioner for South York­shire.

VI­O­LENCE: The Bat­tle of Or­g­reave re­mains a source of anger for South York­shire’s min­ing com­mu­ni­ties 34 years on.

SCRU­TINY: Dr Alan Billings wants an in­de­pen­dent panel to ex­am­ine South York­shire Po­lice’s Or­g­reave ar­chives.

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