A former Greater Manchester police officer who was working on the day of the infamous “Battle of Orgreave” during the 1984 miners’ strike has spoken out about controversial policing tactics and has supported calls for a public inquiry.
Mike Freeman, now a Labour councillor for Sale Moor, was a young PC when officers from Manchester were bussed in to take part in an operation co-ordinated by South Yorkshire Police at the Orgreave coking plant on the outskirts of Sheffield on June 18 1984.
Police charged at pickets who had gathered at the plant. Dozens were injured and 95 miners were arrested with 55 charged with riot, carrying a sentence of life imprisonment. Nearly a year later their trials collapsed when it emerged that many of the police officers had their statements dictated to them.
And this week Cllr Freeman revealed in a Channel 4 News report the officers were briefed that South Yorkshire Police officers would write statements even if they had not arrested the pickets themselves. Cllr Freeman said it ran against all the fundamentals of policing.
He said: “What sticks in my mind is the briefing we were given, passed down through our public order command chains – and that was, particularly on that day, that if you arrest a prisoner you will take that prisoner back to a prisoner reception area, you will be given a reference number, you will return to the (police) lines.
“And at the end of the operation, you will return to the prisoner reception area, where there will be a statement ready for you to sign. I knew in my own mind that was wrong, and I can clearly remember saying to colleagues that I was with that day, ‘I will not be making an arrest on that operation’, and I didn’t.”
The revelations follow a parliamentary question from Wythenshawe MP, Mike Kane to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, in which he said it is important that not all police officers who were at Orgreave should be “tarred with the same brush”. He said: “I have heard personal testimony from Greater Manchester police officers saying that they did not co-operate with the corrupt practices of South Yorkshire Police during the dispute.”
The Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign says the events in 1984 represents one of the most serious miscarriages of justice in British history, which has never been adequately addressed.
Parallels have been drawn with the way South Yorkshire Police altered statements in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 Liverpool football fans lost their lives.
Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham, who campaigned for justice for the Hillsborough families has also led calls in parliament for a public inquiry into the events at Orgreave. He said: “I promised the Hillsborough families the full truth about the 20-year cover-up. They will not have it until we also know what happened after Orgreave.”