The Plastic Hippo

June 13, 2015

Couldn`t escape if I wanted to

Filed under: History,Politics,Rights,Society — theplastichippo @ 2:00 am
Copyright John Harris

Copyright John Harris

Next Thursday, June 18th, is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and, coincidentally, the 31st anniversary of the Battle of Orgreave. Wellington`s victory will undoubtedly be commemorated with solemnity and pride but with very little mention of Field Marshal Blücher. Orgreave, on the other hand, is being commemorated with bucket loads of official whitewash.

In June 1984, at the height of the miner`s strike, the Orgreave coking plant near Rotherham was subject to an NUM picket. It seems that some of the striking miners were playing football when mounted riot police launched a baton charge. The pickets tried to run away and as the re-grouped forces of Marshal Blücher were unlikely to appear over the horizon, the miners attempted to defend themselves. There were numerous injuries on both sides.

A total of 95 miners were arrested and charged with a variety of offences including riot. Their trials collapsed after 16 weeks due to the unreliability of police evidence and all charges were dropped. As with any battle, there are conflicting versions of events and those versions remain vivid and contentious. It is absurd to compare the Battle of Orgreave with the Battle of Waterloo in terms of threats to national security but in both cases the victors wrote the history. Orgreave is significant if we are concerned by allegations that the police service have used deliberate violence to enforce a government`s policies and then falsify evidence to justify brutality.

It required a BBC documentary in 2013 to compel South Yorkshire Police to refer itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate allegations of assault, misconduct, collusion and falsifying court statements. Two years later, the IPCC have concluded that the allegations cannot be pursued.

Sarah Green, deputy chair of the IPCC said:
“These are events from more than 30 years ago, and I have considered the impact such a passage of time could have on an IPCC investigation and possible outcomes.
“In addition, because the miners arrested at Orgreave were acquitted or no evidence offered, there are no miscarriages of justice due to alleged police failures for the IPCC to investigate.
“Allegations of offences amounting to minor assaults could not be prosecuted due to the passage of time; and as many of the police officers involved in events at Orgreave are retired, no disciplinary action could be pursued.
“I have therefore concluded that there should not be an IPCC-led investigation.”

So it was all a long time ago, nobody was hurt or locked up, nothing to see here. Wellington won, Napoleon lost, Blücher is forgotten; get over it. Ms Green added:
“If this happened now, absolutely the IPCC would be investigating it. But what we can’t do is wind back time to go back 30 years and redo what perhaps should have been done then.”

South Yorkshire Police are either extremely lucky or suffering some terrible bad luck. Five years before Orgreave, the horrific catastrophe at Hillsborough took place. The revelations of gross incompetence and subsequent lies were successfully hidden for decades and it was only due to the tenacity of a few individuals that a public inquiry was secured and only now is the truth beginning to be heard. The constabulary also has to answer for their appalling lack of action or interest in investigating the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham. There seems to be a trend emerging.

If Orgreave was the NUM`s Waterloo, it`s tempting to conjure an image of Arthur Scargill, now a recluse locked away in a castle on Elba nervously eating Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding liberally seasoned with powdered glass. As ABBA so memorably sang:
“The history book on the shelf, is always repeating itself.”

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