The Miners' Strike 30 years on: Welsh miners remember Battle of Orgreave

Over 5,000 police officers were deployed to Orgreave Photo: ITV Cymru Wales

It is known as the bloodiest battle of the 1984-5 Miners' Strike.

On the 18th of June, thousands of pickets clashed with police at Orgreave in Yorkshire. Hundreds of miners and police were left seriously injured.

More than 90 miners were arrested. Some were charged with rioting and could have faced life imprisonment. But the trial collapsed after claims that police evidence had been fabricated.

Tonight on Wales This Week, we speak to miners on the picket line who remember the battle of Orgreave 30 years on.

It was like going into a war zone. The police were all lined up chasing you with the horses with their truncheons and whacking you as they were running passed you.

– Phil James, former miner
Over 10,000 miners from around the UK picketed at Orgreave Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Two Welsh miners, Phil James and Harry Selwood were arrested at Orgreave. Both were charged with causing a riot and faced going to jail. They say the miners took a lot of the blame for the rioting.

It’s a part of your life you can’t take away. At the same time, the courts, the police, the press made it sound as if we were the enemy within. We were bludgeoned. We took the blame for a lot of things.

– Phil James, former miner

The strike had started peacefully with some of the pickets playing football but as more miners arrived tensions began rising. Harry Selwood remembers being guided to Orgreave by the police.

The bus must of picked us up at about 9 o'clock up the welfare in Ammanford. A big 42 or 43 something seater bus. Made our way up. Every roundabout you were coming to there were police there guiding you on, telling you which way to go. They were penning us in to wherever they wanted us to go.

– Harry Selwood, former miner
Hundreds of Welsh miners were seriously injured, including union leader Arthur Scargill Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The police have denied setting up a trap for the miners. Assembly Member, Mick Antoniw, was a solicitor during the 1980s and a member of the team who successfully defended the miners in court.

After ten weeks it became blatantly clear that many of the police officers had conspired together in the statements they had put, that the evidence they had put together was inaccurate, it was misleading, it had been written by others, some of it was absolutely bizarre. After ten weeks of cross examination, the police lost all credibility.

– Mick Antoniw AM

After the case collapsed, the prosecution dropped the charges against all 93 miners. The defence team called for there to be a public inquiry. The request was ignored.

ITV Wales has spoken to a number of policemen from Wales who were there on the day. All denied that they tampered or faked the evidence. But a number of them claimed that some officers from certain other forces had been heavy handed.

In November 2012, after more claims of police falsifying witness statements, the South Yorkshire Police Force referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The Police Force declined an interview but said they would, as usual, fully co-operate with the commission's inquiry.

The IPCC is currently conducting an inquiry into the policing of Orgreave Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

18 months on, the IPCC is still considering whether to investigate possible criminal behaviour by police officers.

The IPCC commissioner overseeing the inquiry, Cindy Butts, says she appreciated the concerns about the time it was taking but that it was a very complex process.

We are assessing documentation from a range of different sources. We remain committed to reaching a decision as soon as we can but we want to ensure we have had the opportunity to analyse all relevant documentation

– Cindy Butts, IPCC commissioner

To watch the full programme tune into Wales This Week on ITV Cymru Wales tonight at 8pm.