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'Let the truth be told' Call for probe into police's strike actions.

Byline: Adrian Pearson Regional Affairs Correspondent? 0191 201 6286 ?

N ORTHUMBRIA'S police commissioner has backed calls for the truth to be told about one of the miners' strike's bloodiest battles.

Former North East miners gathered at a Quayside art exhibition as pressure mounts for South Yorkshire Police to face action over its handling of the picket-line protest.

Miners and MPs at the Newcastle art exhibition looking at the battle were reminded of the many alleged criminal offences police said took place during events at the Orgreave coking plant between May 23 and June 18, 1984.

Many coach loads of North East miners headed down, and many ended up facing police action.

The protest was among the most violent in British strike history as police used horses to charge down miners.

Police commissioner Vera Baird was at the time a solicitor representing miners, and told people gathered at the exhibition that she was keeping a close eye on the recently announced IPCC investigation into the force's handling of the event.

Ms Baird said: "I remember It was the 100th day of the strike and it seems frighteningly clear that a decision had been taken, at a high level, that the estimated 5-7,000 miners who were at Orgreave to picket lorries going into the coking plant, would be dealt with as harshly as possible, not as trade unionists fighting for their jobs, but as Prime Minister Thatcher's 'Enemy Within'."

She recalled her time defending one man who she said "went into the police line uninjured and came out on the other side with a busted nose."

Remarkably neither Liverpool PC saw it happen.

Ms Baird added: "Of extra interest in the trial statements were phrases like 'periodically there was missile throwing from the back of the pickets.' "That is quite a strange phrase. It soon became clear why: 13 officers from four forces used that exact phrase, when setting out a scene of disorder sufficient to turn any small misconduct into the offence of riot. A further 27 officers from four forces involved in 15 arrests used a very similar phrase.

"How can 40 officers in these circumstances all begin a sentence using the word 'periodically' as opposed to some saying 'from time to time' or 'occasionally' or 'at times' without being told in some way or other than that is what they should write? "Arresting officers told us what happened and so did lots more. They set a scene of disorder into which each pair of arresting officers could neatly drop into whoever their prisoner was so that he was not on trial even for the invented tiny action of waving his fist but of doing so in a scene of disorder and therefore was guilty of riot."

Ms Baird added: "Although the Orgreave miners were all acquitted, the suffering they endured, many of them men of good character, facing for a year the threat of spending the rest of their days in prison needs to be understood and anyone responsible should be investigated and brought to book." She was backed by Durham Miners' Association general secretary Dave Hopper, also speaking at the event.

He said: "There were lots of people from the North East who went down there and they faced what the rest of the miners did; a police force acting on the political will of the prime minister. It is time there was justice for that."


NOTORIOUS Police push against a section of miners at the Orgreave coking plant in 1984
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 27, 2013
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