Text of Michael Mansfield’s Message of Support to Orgreave Rally
Message of support
Michael Mansfield QC
June 18th 2016
Really sorry I can't be standing before you speaking these words myself. I had intended to be with you as I have many times before, right from the original acquittals. Unfortunately I tripped over a kerbstone ( probably as a result of post Hillsborough ecstasy) and broke my left hip. The one I lead with in court ! I have only just been discharged from hospital and I can't manage too much for the moment. At last , at long last, the tide is turning. Although the points now being made on a daily basis, in the media and elsewhere, have been made repeatedly since 1984, the full significance and magnitude of what happened at Orgreave, has only just penetrated public consciousness with the devastating findings of the jury in the Hillsborough Inquests.
Those findings unwrapped and unravelled systemic failings in a police force that by 1989 had become arrogant and unaccountable. To explain such a situation you need only go back 5 years to 1984. There was a clear political imperative to undermine the power and influence of the Unions especially the NUM and to hone new tools for the maintenance of public order, akin to militaristic manoeuvres. The whole operation was imbued with a sense of carte blanche and impunity. The police were not being used as an independent buffer, but as a blatant political arm of the state. As a result it is hardly surprising that despite the criminal trials exposing proven unlawful acts of excessive force in the field, proven fabrication and perjury off the field, not a single officer has ever been disciplined let alone prosecuted. Worse still, this stance has been bolstered by certain organs of the press and by high ranking politicians at the time from both the main parties.
No wonder in 1989 at Hillsborough members of that same force felt free to blame the Liverpool supporters, to lie about what happened outside the ground, to lie about the opening of the gates, to manipulate witness statements. The force had become a law unto itself. In a ground breaking speech to the Police Federation Conference on the 17th May this year, the Home Secretary plainly recognised how far reaching the Hillsborough jury findings and determinations are. It is not, she urges, just a matter of jeopardising the relationship between the police and the public but a matter which calls into question ......'our very model of policing'. Spot on.
We say that once you put Hillsborough together with Orgreave the gravity and urgency of the task becomes clear and not just in South Yorkshire ( nb the ramifications of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, Leveson and now Pitchford ) It is time for comprehensive reconfiguration of police accountability,primarily democratic, and the reinstatement of the rule of law.
Theresa May went on to emphasise how there could not be anyone at the conference who did not recognise the enormity of the verdicts, but (most importantly, especially for Orgreave )her further words are absolutely crucial - ' Because historical inquiries are not archaeological excavations. They are not purely exercises in truth and reconciliation. They do not just pursue resolution, they are about ENSURING JUSTICE IS DONE ( my emphasis ) Justice : it's what you deal in. It's your business. And you the police are the custodians.WE MUST NEVER ( my emphasis again ) UNDERESTIMATE HOW THE POISON OF DECADES OLD MISDEEDS SEEPS DOWN THROUGH THE YEARS AND IS JUST AS TOXIC TODAY AS IT WAS THEN. THATS WHY DIFFICULT TRUTHS, HOWEVER UNPALATABLE THEY MAY BE MUST BE CONFRONTED HEAD ON.
And let's not forget, when we look at Hillsborough,the principal obstacle to the pursuit of justice has not been the passage of time. The problem has been that due process was obstructed and the police, the custodians of justice failed to put justice first. '
A more eloquent and trenchant rationale for a public judicial inquiry which embraces Orgreave is difficult to conceive. The Home Secretary has displayed enormous courage and perception in the face of palpable hostility. There is now only one step left ...to follow the logic of her argument and examine the bigger questions about the model of policing we need and implement a judicial Inquiry. These were not questions answered by the Hillsborough jury but rather necessarily raised by their excoriating narrative on police failings.
Were this to happen quickly it could run in tandem with Pitchford ( undercover policing) which is yet to hold substantive hearings and the long awaited and promised Leveson 2 into police media and political collusion. To repeat the Home Secretary's own words Ensure justice is done and stem the flow of toxic misdeeds which have seeped down through the years.
We expect nothing less.