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Call for probe into police abuse on miners’ pickets

Miners strike at Wearmouth Pit  pickets  August 1984

Miners strike at Wearmouth Pit pickets August 1984

MPs and union leaders are calling for an inquiry into alleged police abuse during the 1980s miners’ strike.

Activists are demanding a fresh investigation into the conduct of officers on the picket lines of pits across the country.

Confrontations in Sunderland and East Durham included Wearmouth Colliery and Easington Colliery, as well as sites in Houghton and Whitburn.

A coalition of unions, campaigners and lawyers wants to erase the criminal records of the estimated 7,000 men detained and “falsely charged” during the bitter unrest of 1984-85.

But, in the wake of damning reports into the behaviour of police during the Hillsborough disaster, calls have been made to review the way they carried out their duties on the front line amid claims of police brutality.

Former miner Alan Cummings, who was Easington Miners’ Lodge secretary at the height of the protests, said: “This investigation is long overdue and I hope the lads that were falsely charged at the time are completely exonerated.

“Many of them would have been unable to get alternative employment because of these convictions hanging over them.

“We are talking about people who were branded criminals because they were protecting their livelihoods.

“They were doing nothing illegal.

“We expect the police to uphold the law. We expect them to be law abiding.”

David Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, said: “We would like to think we could resurrect some of the cases and have them re-examined to see if they can do anything.

“It was a long time ago but there is still a lot of bitterness about what the police did.”

Easington MP Grahame Morris has co-signed an early day motion asking for the Director of Public Prosecutions to deliver “a full comprehensive inquiry into the policing of the miners’ strike throughout the UK to ensure miners, their families and communities finally receive the justice they deserve”.

It comes in the wake of a BBC documentary about the 1984 clash between police and pickets at Orgreave, the British Steel coking plant in South Yorkshire where 95 miners were charged with riot and unlawful assembly, but acquitted a year later.

The South Yorkshire force referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and has confirmed it is looking at allegations of assault, perjury, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public office.

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said it had yet to be contacted by the IPCC in relation to Orgreave.

MPs, including North Durham’s Kevan Jones, said an inquiry should be widened to hold other forces to account for what happened in the North East.

Mr Morris said: “There should be another look at what has happened and an amnesty for people who have carried false conviction for over 25 years.

“It has been a stain on their characters and in many cases has prevented them from getting gainful employment.

“It is also a huge stain on the police’s history.”

The NUM said about 60 per cent of the 11,000 miners arrested during the strike were held on “bogus” grounds.

Michael Mansfield QC, who also acts for the Hillsborough Family Support Group, is reviewing evidence of police assaults against miners and campaigners.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho

 

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