Campaigners have called for a “Hillsborough-style inquiry” into South Yorkshire Police’s handling of violence during the 1984 miners’ strike after the police watchdog announced it would not investigate alleged misconduct by officers.
The decision comes more than two years after the force referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over events at Orgreave coking plant in Rotherham 31 years ago.
South Yorkshire Police - which is already under intense scrutiny over its role in the Hillsborough disaster - faced claims that officers used “excessive force” against picketing miners, manipulated statements and gave false evidence in court.
But following a two-year analysis of thousands of pages of documents related to the case, the IPCC said it had decided not to launch an investigation, prompting one campaign group to brand the watchdog “not fit for purpose”.
IPCC deputy chair Sarah Green said: “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.”
The IPCC said it had not found any “direct evidence” that senior officers within South Yorkshire Police conspired to instruct colleagues to commit perjury.
But in its redacted report, the watchdog said it had found “significant new evidence” of the force’s “apparent desire to settle claims to avoid disclosing evidence that officers may have committed perjury”.
Mark Metcalf, spokesman for the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign (OTJC), said its members were “disappointed” by the IPCC’s decision but “not surprised”.
“The fact the IPCC, described rightly in our view by many prominent individuals as ‘not fit for purpose’, is stepping aside will not deter the OTJC from continuing its campaign,” he said.
“The IPPC report recognises the limitations of what the organisation can do and that only a Hillsborough-style public inquiry can eventually get to the truth.”
Mr Metcalf said a public inquiry would “inevitability” lead to a “paper trail” which suggested police actions in Orgreave were “influenced by political pressure from within the highest ranks of the Government of the day”.
Former miner Kevin Horne, 64, who was arrested for obstruction at Orgreave in 1984 but never charged, said: “I’m really disappointed.
“I think they’ve got away with murder really, because the evidence is all there.
“They don’t seem to have investigated properly or it’s not in their power to do a proper investigation.”
South Yorkshire Police voluntarily referred itself to the IPCC following media reports about its handling of proceedings at the Rotherham plant.
A BBC documentary broadcast in 2012 featured allegations that some police who were involved in prosecutions colluded when they wrote their statements.
The Inside Out programme investigated the events following the arrest of more than 90 people at Orgreave, which saw some of the most shocking and memorable scenes of the year-long dispute.
Those charged with riot were later cleared after doubts were raised about police evidence.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “This decision lets down the Orgreave families and shows the weakness of the current system.
“It has taken the IPCC two-and-a-half years to decide not to investigate the events at Orgreave and to conclude that the big questions weren’t within their remit or resources.
“If they are too limited to do the job then someone else needs to.
“For too long there have been serious allegations about the way the miners were treated at Orgreave, but we have never had the truth.
“Its time for an independent inquiry, potentially modelled in the Hillsborough panel, to open up everything.
“The events at Orgreave were amongst the most troubling of the entire 1984/85 miners’ strike.
“Those who were there have distressing stories of violence.
“Those who weren’t saw the TV images of blooded faces, charging horses, of kicks and punches.
“The aftermath threw up more questions than answers.
“It’s time for the truth.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Serious concerns were raised about incidents that took place in 1984 at the Orgreave coking plant and it was right that the IPCC reviewed these matters.
“The IPCC’s review has been a complex exercise including in-depth analysis of a vast amount of documentation from nearly 30 years ago.
“The Home Secretary will carefully consider the findings of the IPCC’s review and will respond in due course.”
South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Alan Billings said: “Despite repeated requests from former miners, local MPs, councillors and the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, the decision has been an inordinately long time coming and is just a few days short of the 31st anniversary of the events themselves.
“The decision of the IPCC not to investigate the events of Orgreave is likely to satisfy no one.
“It does not bring closure for the former miners, their families and communities. Their sense of justice denied will continue. The psychological and emotional wounds will persist.
“But in suggesting, in effect, that the events of Orgreave should be investigated by a bigger public inquiry, the IPCC also prolongs the uncertainties that hang over those South Yorkshire Police officers who were present at Orgreave and will cause dismay to the present generation of police officers who want to acknowledge past mistakes and move to a better place.
“None of this will help to rebuild trust and confidence between the former mining communities of South Yorkshire and the police.
“I would understand why the former miners would want a thorough inquiry: they want to know the truth and they want closure after so many years. However, any such inquiry should not be allowed to be protracted and the costs would have to be borne by the national government and not fall on the present generation of South Yorkshire taxpayers.”