Sheffield & South Yorkshire

'Battle of Orgreave': South Yorkshire Police review 'a huge exercise'

Scene from Orgreave, 18 June 1984
Image caption About 10,000 pickets went head to head with about 5,000 police officers on 18 June 1984

Examining South Yorkshire Police's handling of the so-called Battle of Orgreave is "a huge, complex logistical exercise", a watchdog has said.

The force referred itself to the IPCC over claims officers involved in the clashes of June 1984, during the UK miners' strike, were told what to write in their statements.

The allegations were revealed in a BBC Inside Out programme in October.

The IPCC has not yet decided whether to launch a full investigation.

On 18 June 1984, British Steel's coking plant at Orgreave was the scene of clashes between about 10,000 striking miners from pits across the country and some 5,000 police officers.

Unreliable police evidence

In the Inside Out programme, Vera Baird, Solicitor General during the last Labour government, said police officers were asked by the force's detectives to describe in their statements "scenes they'd simply never seen".

A barrister at the time, Ms Baird first heard the claims during a trial at Sheffield Crown Court in 1985 while she was defending 15 of the 93 pickets arrested at Orgreave.

The trial collapsed after 16 weeks when it became clear police evidence was unreliable.

A spokesperson for the Independent Police Complaints Commission said: "The IPCC has been identifying the location of documentation and preparing plans for conducting a complex scoping exercise to assist it in identifying the specific allegations stemming from events at the Orgreave coking plant and which, if any, warrant investigation.

"We know there are at least 65 boxes of documents, with an estimate of 1,000 documents per box, in an archive in Sheffield.

"This creates a huge, complex logistical exercise, especially for an organisation with limited resources like the IPCC.

"We are committed to concluding this scoping exercise as soon as we can."

An IPCC inquiry is also being carried out into South Yorkshire Police's conduct at Hillsborough.

It was launched after the Independent Hillsborough Panel Report found police and emergency services deflected blame for the disaster on to fans.

The panel revealed 164 police statements had been altered - 116 of them to remove or change negative comments about the policing of the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Sheffield stadium, during which a crush on the terraces led to the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans.

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