Dan Johnson uncovers new evidence about the conduct of South Yorkshire police, following the acquittal of 95 miners charged with rioting at Orgreave during the miners' strike.
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Welcome to Inside Out. I am Toby Foster. I am at Orgreave, the scene
of the bitter minor battle in 1984. There are two accounts of what
happened that day, one from the miners and one from the police. We
have got evidence that suggested the police doctor statements which
could have led to the culture which five years later on would see the
In September the Hillsborough Independent Panel released its
report into the stadium disaster of April 1989. It revealed a catalogue
of accusations against South Yorkshire Police, the Ambulance
Service, Sheffield Wednesday and many others. But of all its
shocking findings, what stands out is the evidence that 116 police
statements were changed in an attempt to put the blame for the
disaster onto Liverpool supporters. The new evidence with which we are
presented today makes it clear, in my view, that these families have
suffered a double injustice. The injustice of the appalling events,
the failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the
indefensible wait to get to the truth, and then the injustice of
the denigration of the deceased, that they were somehow at fault for
their own deaths. On the face of it there seems little connection
between the miners' strike in the 1980s and what happened on the
Leppings Lane that terrace but tonight we will reveal that
Hillsborough, far from being an isolated event, was, in fact, part
of a pattern of senior South Yorkshire officers manipulating the
statements made by junior officers and while Hillsborough resonated
around the world, what happened at Orgreave in June 1984 has been left
as a footnote in history. In the aftermath of Hillsborough
South Yorkshire police systematically altered the witness
statements of its own officers. Tonight we'll reveal how five years
earlier the same force deliberately moulded statements so it could
prosecute miners at Orgreave for riot, an offence that potentially
carried a life sentence. They wanted to teach the miners a
lesson, a big lesson, so that the miners wouldn't come out in force
again. I was punched, kicked, prodded, you
name it. I walked in, and I was nearly carried out.
You can see in a way that they were trying merely to set the scenario,
but actually what they were doing was teeing up, perverting the
course of justice. I was a bit surprised when I came
in and someone said we need to have this as a starting paragraph.
However I'd never been involved in a situation where so many people
were arrested. The violence and intimidation that
we have seen should never have happened. It is the work of
extremists. It is the enemy within. Oh, what a lovely summer.
Oh, what a long, long strike. But if we have to go through it all
again, We would still stand up and fight.
Convoys of coal going from Orgreave. Men standing side by side.
Women serving the soup for them, Watching lories of coal go by.
Rows and rows of men in blue. Horses, dogs and truncheons too.
Hitting miners, they didn't care who.
It's not so long ago that Yorkshire was synonymous with mining. Before
the 1984 strike, this region was dotted with 60 collieries. Each of
them supporting a community and giving thousands of miners jobs.
Coal kept the lights on and powered industry. But now only three
underground pits remain in Yorkshire, like this one at
Hatfield near Doncaster. The strike was the turning point
for the industry. The miners, led by Arthur Scargill, believed that
the government planned to shut down hundreds of pits. Faced with the
loss of their jobs, most Yorkshire miners came out on strike. They
hoped to choke the country's supply of energy and force Mrs Thatcher to
back down. No way. Move! crucially most Nottinghamshire
miners kept working, believing their pits would be safe. The year-
long dispute pitched miner against miner, and against the government.
But they'd planned ahead. Power stations had stockpiled coal and
tough union laws had made it harder for other workers to support the
miners. Throughout the dispute, pickets and police clashed
regularly. The most notorious flashpoint was at the Orgreave
Coking Plant on the outskirts of Sheffield. The coke produced at
Orgreave fuelled the British Steel mill in Scunthorpe. During the 1972
miners' strike, the National Union of Mineworkers had famously shut
the Saltley Coking plant in Birmingham by sending in flying
pickets. Arthur thought what we should
really do is to have one big pitched battle. Like the one he had
at Saltley Gate. At Saltley Gate, we won.
Saltley acted as the template for the picketing at Orgreave 12 years
later. Only this time, the miners faced a police force and a
government determined not to be beaten.
Almost from the start of the strike in March 1984, there had been
pickets at Orgreave. We shall be coming here until we
stop them wagons. We want that plant shutting down. We want them
stopping them wagons going in. Over the weeks tensions grew and
things finally came to a head on June the 18th. That day up to
10,000 pickets turned up. There to try and stop the miners shutting
the plant were at least 5,000 policemen from many different
forces across the country. The man in overall command that day, was
the South Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Anthony
Clement. The miners' strike is 100 days old tomorrow and today brought
the worst scenes of violence of the dispute.
The violence lasted most of the day. By the end 93 miners had been
arrested. The official police report said 51 pickets were injured
along with 72 police officers. But, as with Hillsborough, two very
different accounts of what happened emerged.
We were like a phalanx of Roman legionnaires, lined across the
field. Obviously the coke lorries were coming through, infuriating
the pickets and so the level of missiles appeared to increase.
Police horses were deployed. And then on the date in question, the
decision was taken, we were taken from long shields and told we were
to deploy as short shield snatch squads.
It was like a military plan. And when miners arrived in June
sunshine, bare chested. They'd been picketing there for weeks and weeks.
They expected it to be kind of the same ritual. You arrive and the
police are there in a great long line and we push against it and
then it's sort of over with really. And lorries go into the coking
works. There was an understanding and
acceptance that protest was their lawful and legal right but these
idiots who wanted to use the police as Aunt Sallys, the anonymity that
their numbers gave them caused the problem.
It started with the usual pushing and shoving and it was fairly much
OK, but it started to escalate where one or two bricks and bottles
came across. They had dogs on one side. They had
police on horse-back in the field. It was like a medieval battlefield.
The rows upon rows of great long shields. And up on the bridge and
into the village, there were horses and cops across the road. So they
were surrounded. And there were 10,000 miners. And there were a lot
of police. And it was like, click. The decision came from Clements and
off they went. Horses charged straight into the miners. They
could have been trampled to death. The short shield units went in
afterwards. They grabbed people, So that charge by the horses,
Norman, do you think that was justified by the level of violence
that you were encountering? I was a bit surprised to see the horses.
But quite pleased. Cos they'd stopped the bricks being thrown.
You know if the horses are coming charging towards me, swinging them
big night-sticks. You know, I might be built like Gandhi, but I'm not
going to sit down in the road singing, we shall overcome, baby.
I'll you that. So of course we launched bloody bricks at them to
try to stop the charge. These days Michael Mansfield is one
Britain's most famous defence barristers, specialising in
miscarriages of justice. But in 1984 he was only starting to make a
name for himself when he represented several miners in the
first trial which took place in Sheffield in 1985.
The video footage the police themselves took showed a completely
different story. Not the one the BBC put out, but the police footage
was quite different. There were a lot of independent monitors, some
with notebooks, some with cameras and one with a movie camera stuck
up in a tree. The police had no idea to which the extent of what
they were doing, their unlawful activities were being filmed. So if
you put the combination of that package together, you had a record,
a really almost unchallengeable record of a completely different
version of events. The police account reported at the
time was that miners had massed together and launched a violent
assault on the Police. South Yorkshire police claimed there'd
been no choice but to send in mounted policemen and snatch squads
with short shields in order to regain control.
A lot of miners think that there was a concerted attempt at Orgreave
to send them a message that they weren't going to win. Did you see
evidence of that? Yeah, I would say so. The comment, we weren't going
to lose, was upper most in a lot of our minds. Coming from Birmingham,
the previous miners' strike in Birmingham, Saltley Gate,
effectively the pickets had won by pushing through the police lines.
And I wasn't there, I don't think many of the officers I knew were
there because it happened in a previous decade, but it was
something for us professionally, we weren't going to lose.
The miners' maintained that they'd been peacefully picketing and it
was the police who'd attacked them. The video evidence produced in
court contradicted the police So it had two stages. Get em all in
a field and charge and generally batter them and hopefully they'll
retreat, which they did. Up the field, down a railway embankment,
huge injuries. Stef Wysocki was a striking miner
from the Derbyshire coalfield. He went to Orgreave that day to picket.
It were a nice hot summer's day. We were all there in T-shirts. They
were in full riot gear. They knew what were going off. We didn't. I
just stood there with my hands in my pockets. I hadn't done anything
wrong. I was just watching what was going off. It was all new to me.
I'd never seen anything like this before. I just stood there and next
minute I seen all these policemen running up field and I looked round
to see who they were running for. And there were only me there left,
so obviously they were after me. REPORTER: So when they got to you,
did you put any resistance up? whatsoever. None whatsoever.
REPORTER: So when they arrested you, what did you expect to happen?
I hadn't done anything. So I didn't think I would get charged.
Obviously there were a lot of cameras there. And when it got to
court there, they got all the photos of me being arrested at the
top of the hill with no injuries. And when we got to the bottom of
the hill, I'd got injuries and I were in their custody.
REPORTER: What sort of injuries? Bruises, facial cuts. Bleeding.
REPORTER: So you got a bit of a kicking then?
Oh I got a very big kicking. One of things we done was we protected the
arrested person as we went through police lines.
Because I have to say some of my colleagues, or not colleagues,
individuals from other forces weren't above trying to land a
smack on the head of an individual coming through. I wasn't happy
about that. My prisoner, he gets to the holding centre in the state in
which he was arrested. I didn't want someone who was injured who
would then make allegations against me. I said, "what are you arresting
me for"? He said, "throwing stones at a policeman". I said, "look at
my hands. I haven't thrown anything". He said, "they all say
that". So then I was marched down the field, both arms up my back.
Got to the police line. I was banged onto police shields. They
bounced me off. The shields opened and I was punched, kicked, prodded,
you name it. I walked in, and I was nearly carried out. Stage two, we
have to have a recording process, that's the statement process done
by another unit. And unfortunately they were caught out once again
because some of the officers who claimed to have arrested certain
individuals plainly didn't, because they're not in the photographs
accompanying the miners. So basically the second stage process,
the investigation and recording of what happened on the field at
Orgreave was a contrivance. Another barrister who defended the miners
in the Orgreave Trial was Vera Baird.
Officers signed statements saying they'd seen A, they'd seen B,
they'd seen D. Important symptoms of disorder. But actually we got
the log books of the vehicles and many of them hadn't even left home
by the time those things had happened and been taken away. So,
it was a clear plan to make this escalation of the gravity of the
charges really work. I think the allegation was that we
had statements dictated to us or something similar. I was not
dictated to with regards to the statement. But some of the
statements in public order situations can seem formulaic. So
where officers, or in my statement it talks about "I was frightened, I
was apprehensive". Those were forms of words you used because in terms
of the public order act, or it was actually common law then, those
were the things you expressed. Hillsborough Independent Panel
report accused South Yorkshire Police in 1989 of making a
concerted effort to remove damaging references from officers. The panel
found 116 statement had been altered. The police narrative was
that Liverpool fans were drunk and ticketless. Some officers even
falsely claimed to the press that supporters had stolen from the dead
and urinated on people while police officers attempted to save lives.
In the case of Orgreave five years earlier, the manipulation of
statements appears to be even more organised than at Hillsborough. In
1985, the first 15 miners charged with riot were tried here at the
old Sheffield Crown Court. But the trial collapsed in spectacular
style when it became clear the police evidence wasn't reliable.
One officer, PC Stephen Hill, admitted under cross examination
that much of his statement had been narrated to him. PC Hill's version
of events tallies with Inspector Norman Taylor's recollection of
what happened when he was asked to write up his statement. It was like
a big room. And people were in different parts of the room. I
recall this policeman in plain clothes mentioning that he'd had a
good idea of what had happened. And we were from different police
forces. And that there was a preamble to set the scene. And he
was reading from some paper, a paragraph or so. And he asked the
people who were there to use that as their starting paragraph. So you
copied down what they told you to write? So that paragraph, I think
it was basically the time and date, the name of the place. There were
guys from the Met who hadn't a clue where South Yorkshire was. In fact,
it was more than just one paragraph. The arresting officers may have
thought that they were simply describing the scene at Orgreave.
But why did senior South Yorkshire detectives have to dictate a form
of wording for the officers to use? It seems clear the fact that the
exact same phrases appeared in dozens of police witness statements
was no coincidence. To take just one example, 31 officers from four
We've obtained copies of around 100 police witness statements after
Orgreave. And what you see in those statements is fascinating.
Statement after statement from officer after officer, the same
phrases appear over and over again. So was it the intention from the
start to build an exaggerated case of riot against the pickets. And
that charge of riot matters. The common law offence of Riot dates
back to the medieval period. Prior to its use in the Orgreave trials,
nobody in England and Wales had been accused of riot for more than
60 years. But why did South Yorkshire police choose to it?
Whereas a picket convicted of a public order offence such as
throwing a stone might get a fine, pickets convicted of riot were
faced potentially life in prison. Ian Hernon was a political reporter
in the 1980s and went on the write about the history of the Riot Act.
It was a very blunt instrument to suppress civil discontent. It
wasn't used very often. Most famously it was used in the
Peterloo massacre in Manchester as a way of allowing the militia and
the cavalry to kill civilians. It wasn't used very much after that.
In fact the last time that we know for sure that it was used was
during the 1919 police strike in Birkenhead.
But the real key to it was the process that was used after they
were arrested. Two police would arrest one miner. They would take
them back through the police lines to an office and lock him up,
having presented him to a custody sergeant and write their statement
immediately. And in that office, as they told us, were some detectives
who were dictating the paragraphs alleging the scene of disorder
necessary to make a little offence like throwing a pork pie, into a
riot. The main reason I think why the
Orgreave trial collapsed was because the police being totally
out of control, cavalier in the whole affair, were in such a rush
to arrest people, injure people, that who arrested who was lost
track of. So they didn't keep a note of which person had been
arrested by which cop. So they had a whole big bunch of people and
whole big bunch of cops and they just made up who they arrested. And
then they made up the stories associated with who'd done what.
You can see in a way that they were merely trying to set the scenario,
but actually what they were doing was teeing up, perverting the
course of justice. Because these men could not say that those things
had happened yet they were signing a statement saying they knew they'd
be prosecuted if they got it wrong, and come into court and giving
evidence in accordance to their statement of scenes they'd simply
never seen. The people who were arrested that day, were
subsequently charge with riot? Were you surprised? Actually it did.
Because normally the public order offence, Section 5 Public Order
would be the one they used. So even when you get groups of people on a
Friday night or so, that would be it. We took the Orgreave statements
to a leading Sheffield barrister to ask for an independent opinion.
It's very obvious in the Orgreave case that there was widespread
collusion. You can't get statements written in the way they have been
done here, by police officers from different forces involved in
different arrests and find such a degree of similarity between those
statements without there being some degree of collusion. I've just
taken one of a number of examples. This is a West Yorkshire police
officer who is involved in a separate arrest, nothing to do with
this South Yorkshire officer. But when you put their statements
literally side by side, you can see that their statements begin in an
You've got the setting of the scene here as to the date. This passage
here. Exactly the same in the two statements. That's word for word.
Absolutely, and then here's an interesting phrase. "Periodically
there was missile throwing from the back of the ranks, but apart from
this there was no trouble". Now some other statements have the
first part of that but leave out that second bit. But there are
literally several dozen examples of police officers who've used exactly
the same phrase there. I was frankly shocked by Orgreave.
By the deliberate nature of putting together this case against men who
were after all, some of them may have been occasionally violent,
many of them absolutely were not, but after all they were simply
trying to fight for their jobs and that's what they were doing, so I
was shocked by the extent of the politicisation of police, and to
some extent the criminal justice system generally. And how strong do
you think the evidence is that cover that was enacted after
Hillsborough was in their culture already at the time of Orgreave?
I think the evidence is strong. What happened at Orgreave seems to
be on the basis that the police just assumed that if they gave a
particular account of the day's events. Nobody would challenge, or
at least nobody who they thought mattered would challenge them. And
so when you have groups of miners and the miners' communities saying,
"that's not how it happened at Orgreave, we know, that's not how
it happened". Of course there's a parallel there with Liverpool and
Hillsborough. The Hillsborough families have known all along the
truth. But it was an attempt by the police to set the agenda according
the fact that I think at the time they did feel that they could say
these things and that nobody who mattered was going to challenge
them. As indeed is the case, because outside of the trial,
nobody did challenge them and bring them to book.
In those days, every day at about 11 o'clock, we'd all troop over to
Downing Street and the press secretary of that time would brief
us on Margaret Thatcher's attitude. Now even though it's a long time
ago, almost daily we heard the miners described as a bunch of yobs
or yobbos - that was one of the favourite phrases - and how dare
they hold the country to ransom. When we queried police tactics, we
were simply told that anyone who challenges the government or bad
mouths the police is the enemy within.
No doubt at all that it was political. I mean before Orgreave
I'd done other cases and although by the establishment there's been a
continual denial that we have political trials in the United
Kingdom, in fact they're a little more subtle, they don't call them
political trials and it's not a political offence. But essentially
the momentum is undoubtedly political. And as far as 1984
miners' strike and strikes before. This was clearly a political battle
and a political imperative. Thatcher saw the NUM as being
subversive. And that's how they became "the enemy within" so what
could be more political than that? The notable thing about it is that
because it didn't succeed, it was a mass acquittal, very little has
been made of it. If they had been convicted and then acquitted again
years later, that somehow hits the spot in a way that an acquittal
didn't. So there is no doubt among some cases, for instance, Stefan
Kiszko, that was pure dealing with forensic stuff, this is much worse
than some of those cases. Though it's not dissimilar to the kind of
Birmingham Six situation. It is a miscarriage of justice, but not in
a normal sense of the word. Obviously if they'd been found
guilty and had to go to appeal and then got let off, those are the
famous miscarriage of justices. But there's a much bigger miscarriage
of justice here at Orgreave. And it's not isolated because we see
the same thing at Hillsborough. Not a single police officer was
prosecuted. Even ones that were caught on camera beating a
defensive miner, holding one to the ground and beating him in one
particular case, not a single officer prosecuted. Not a single
one was even disciplined. It's obviously difficult because of
the lapse of time. It's now getting on for 30 years since Orgreave. But
the fact remains that if there is evidence that senior police
officers in South Yorkshire Police did apparently conspire together
and this couldn't have happened just on one officers' say so, if
there's evidence of a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, then
in principle, why should they be allowed to live out their
retirements on their pensions with We asked South Yorkshire Police to
participate in this film but they declined. Instead they gave us this
statement. "South Yorkshire Police notes the issues raised in the
programme and will consider whether any review is necessary. The force
is not aware of any adverse comment about the statements from the trial
judge in the case. The police and reputation in mining areas went
crashing to the ground. I was still practising during the miners'
strike. If there was any evidence against a police officer, there
would never be a conviction. There is still strong feelings against
The Battle of Orgreave happened 28 years ago. Ancient history some
might say. But as we've seen tonight and as we've learned
recently with Hillsborough, what lies in the past isn't necessarily
a closed chapter. The South Yorkshire Police of today is
different to its 1980s counterpart, but fate has dictated that the
actions of the force in the 1980s, at Hillsborough and at Orgreave,
will now face closer scrutiny than they ever did at the time. That's
all for tonight. But you can find us on Facebook and follow us on
Dan Johnson investigates the acquittal of 95 miners charged with rioting at Orgreave during the miners' strike and uncovers new evidence about the conduct of South Yorkshire Police.