Miners' Strike: Calls for amnesty and inquiry

Miners and police on a picket line Miners and police on the picket line during the 1984 strike

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Florence Anderson had always had respect for the law and the police.

But in 1985, she was convicted of threatening behaviour while on a picket line at Eppleton in County Durham during the Miners' Strike.

It's a crime the miner's wife says she didn't commit.

Instead what she remembers are unnecessary violence and lies.

Belated justice

She said: "Two of the officers had a hold of me and punched me into the van. It was the same when we got out, just punching us out of the van.

"When I got to court, I couldn't believe the lies the police officers were telling. I may have been naïve but at the time I didn't think police officers told lies."

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Florence Anderson

When I got to court, I couldn't believe the lies the police officers were telling”

End Quote Florence Anderson Miner's wife

Florence Anderson received a conditional discharge. But she believes her and others convicted during the dispute deserve some belated justice.

She thinks there is a case for an amnesty for prosecuted pickets and for an inquiry into police tactics during the strike.

She said: "It was not just me. Ordinary people found themselves before the courts and getting convictions. Lads were sacked from pits because they were convicted.

"Every arm of the state was used against the miners and their families. It was a complete abuse of government power. It felt like living in a police state."

Picket line

Several Labour MPs in the north also believe it's time for a Hillsborough-style inquiry into whether the police and the courts were politicised during the dispute.

Although the Independent Police Complaints Commission is looking into events at the Orgreave coke works in South Yorkshire, they think the inquiry must be much wider.

Pit wheel at former Eppleton mine This memorial pit wheel is all that's left at Eppleton where Florence Anderson was arrested

Ronnie Campbell was a miner in Northumberland, and is now MP for Blyth Valley. He also has two public order convictions from the picket line.

In one he says he saw police concoct evidence, but he also thinks questions need to be asked about the courts.

He said: "All the police had to do was go in with some cock and bull story to the magistrates and they believed them. Was it because they were told by the establishment that they had to?

"If they're honest those magistrates will come out and say yes, we were told to come down hard on the miners, as hard as we could."

And his fellow Northumberland Labour MP Ian Lavery, another ex-miner and former President of the NUM, wants to see an amnesty for miners, who he sees as victims of government oppression.

He says the release of government papers from 30 years ago shows Margaret Thatcher's government were intent on picking a fight with the miners and destroying the NUM.

Mounted police officers Mounted police officers at Orgreave in 1984

He said: "There was a conspiracy against the miners. Why did Mrs Thatcher and the government of the time contemplate using the armed forces against ordinary, hard-working people.

"That is why I think there should be an amnesty. The government picked a fight with the miners and they got one."

Miners accused

Others are also sympathetic to people's desire for answers. Vera Baird is now Northumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner and served as Solicitor General under the last Labour government.

But 30 years ago she was defending miners in court. Her work helped secured the acquittal of the miners accused of rioting at Orgreave.

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Michael Fallon

We know what the causes of the strike were, we know how it ended and we should leave it there”

End Quote Michael Fallon MP Minster for Coal

She says there were some miners who did commit offences, but understands why others still seek justice.

She said: "I would be very interested in there being an inquiry.

"What I think is key is, are there are still people who have a sense of injustice from the way they were treated, who might deserve the relief that they would get from getting a proper answer to why they were treated in that way."

But the government has firmly rejected talk of Hillsborough-style hearings.

Michael Fallon is now Minister for Coal, but in 1984 he was a Conservative MP in Darlington - on the fringe of the County Durham coalfield.

He thinks it's time the North East moved on.

He said: "I think it would be wrong to put the Miners' Strike alongside events that did demand an inquiry such as Bloody Sunday and Hillsborough where there was significant loss of life.

"We know what the causes of the strike were, we know how it ended and we should leave it there.

"In my view the most significant event of that year for the North East was not the Miners' Strike, it was the arrival of Nissan in Sunderland."

And so far the Labour leadership has shown little enthusiasm for a public inquiry. It's a time Labour leader Ed Miliband may not be keen to revisit.

But for others the wounds from the Miners' Strike remain open and won't heal until they get answers.

Florence Anderson, for one, still wants answers, and what she sees as justice.

She said: "I realised democracy was paper thin. When a government can abuse their powers to oppress people and destroy communities, it's frightening.

"It may be 30 years on but in my view it's never too late for justice."

Richard Moss, Political editor, North East & Cumbria Article written by Richard Moss Richard Moss Political editor, North East & Cumbria

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  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    'Police lied to obtain convictions'

    Are you happy to live in a country where such behaviour can occur?

    NUM policy was developed in accordance with their rule book, Thatcher's anti-worker laws ensued that was the case.

    Police committing perjury?

    Do you support an inquiry?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    There is never a 'single truth' in these situations. South Yorks Police certainly lied to obtain convictions at this time (based on family experience), but I also lived next door to a retired police officer left with life changing injuries after a picket in Yorkshire squirted acid into his eyes. However it indisputable that Scargill manipulated the NUM into supporting his battle with Thatcher.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    No19 Claret,

    'to destroy the industry'

    You are right to highlight the disgraceful use of the British secret police as part of the establishment conspiracy to intervene in a dispute between a group of workers and their employers.

    You forgot to mention that 'Ding Dong' - the spam hoarder from Grantham, decided to import US gangsters to destroy our publicly owned industries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    ITV made a good, 60 mins documentary commemorating the 30th anniversary of the miners' strike. When are BBC making one Richard? Or is it too sensitive a subject for a Corporation led by Chris Patten and other high Tories? There has been little on the strike by BBC NE despite the historical importance of coal in and to the region. Shame on you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Nic Jones, ex-BBC, tells how the media used Thatcher's propaganda and vilified Scargill to destroy the industry. MI5 MI6 infiltrated pit villages and police brutality was under-reported. Mistrust has not recovered and the S Yorks police force at Orgreave coke works was involved in the deaths of 95 Liverpool supporters at Hillsboro. We import 50m t of coal a yr. Economics of the madhouse,


Comments 5 of 22



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