Vera Baird calls for police to open archives on 'the Battle of Orgeave'

Vera Baird
Vera Baird

Vera Baird has urged South Yorkshire Police to open up its archives on one of the most notorious events of the Miners' Strike.

The Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner was a solicitor at the trial of of miners involved in the so-called 'Battle of Orgeave,' which saw police clash with pickets.

Almost 100 pickets were charged with riot, unlawful assembly and similar offences and several were put on trail only for the prosecutions to collapse.

South Yorkshire Police later agreed to pay compensation and legal costs to 39 pickets in an out-of court-settlement, but no officer was ever disciplined.

Calls to re-examine the conduct of the South Yorkshire force in relation to the strike - and Orgeave in particular - have been growing in the wake of the Hillsborough inquest.

Now Mrs Baird has urged the interim Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police to open up the archives after reports that senior police officers and a solicitor who were involved in the force's response to Hillsborough were also involved with Orgreave.

Peter Metcalf was involved in defending the force against unlawful arrest claims after the 1984 Orgreave clash. He also played a key role in reviewing statements after Hillsborough. Deputy Chief Constable Peter Hayes and Assistant Chief Constable Walter Jackson are connected to both cases. The officers were also involved in a review of the evidence after Orgreave and had links to Hillsborough.

Vera Baird said: "There are clear and sinister policing operational similarities between both events and the fact that the same officers were involved causes grave concern.

"The Hillsborough inquiry gave families justice, now the miners deserve the right to have what happened at Orgreave fully investigated."

Mrs Baird has called upon the interim Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police to open up the forces archives to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign and to urge the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to put in place a structure to ensure an honest, open and transparent investigation.

Commissioner Baird added: "The interim Chief Constable can help secure an investigation in to Orgreave by opening up the forces files and showing that South Yorkshire Police respect the miners and their families by giving them the answers that they deserve.

"I defended miners involved in Orgreave and I stand ready to give evidence to the inquiry."