Hillsborough lawyer: 'Miners' strike link' to cover-ups

Police and striker at Orgreave Michael Mansfield QC represented many miners caught up in the 1984-5 strike

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Police cover-ups in South Yorkshire went at least as far back as the 1984-5 miners' strike, the lawyer advising the Hillsborough families has said.

A report found South Yorkshire Police changed witness statements after the Hillsborough stadium tragedy in 1989.

Michael Mansfield QC said "similar misdemeanours" occurred in 1984 after police and miners clashed at Orgreave.

Current Chief Constable David Crompton admitted there was "far less scrutiny" in the 1980s.

But he added his force today was "not corrupt".

'Familiar story'

The independent report on Hillsborough revealed evidence had been changed by South Yorkshire Police and that "strenuous attempts" had been made to deflect blame on to Liverpool fans.

Mr Mansfield, who represented many miners caught up in the 1984-5 strike, said the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy echoed that of Orgreave.

All 90 miners arrested following the Orgreave clashes were later acquitted amid doubts over South Yorkshire Police's evidence against them.

Jack Straw Former Home Secretary Jack Straw said police forces were "immune from outside influences" in the 1980s

"It's the old familiar story. People in Yorkshire will remember what happened to the miners five years before at Orgreave," he said.

"I was involved in that case and there were similar misdemeanours going on in that case."

Mr Mansfield said South Yorkshire Police exhibited "a pattern of events which should not be countenanced".

'Life on Mars'

Present day South Yorkshire Chief Constable David Crompton, a junior police officer in another force at the time of the Hillsborough tragedy, said there were "far fewer checks and balances and far less scrutiny of what the police were doing" in the 1980s.

At that time there was "a whiff of [TV police series] Life on Mars" about the police and "people felt it was something they could get away with", said Mr Crompton.

Michael Mansfield's remarks follow comments by ex-Home Secretary Jack Straw who said Margaret Thatcher's government in the 1980s created a "culture of impunity" in the police which led to the Hillsborough cover-up.

"They really were immune from outside influences and they thought they could rule the roost and that is what we absolutely saw in South Yorkshire," said Mr Straw.

But Lord Tebbit, one of Baroness Thatcher's closest political allies, said Mr Straw's remarks were "just very, very silly".

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