Miners’ strike convictions review demanded

HOLYROOD is to consider a demand to review miners’ strike convictions from the bitter 1980s dispute over pit closures.

The move follows the news that justice secretary Kenny MacAskill refused to review the criminal records of almost 500 pitworkers convicted north of the Border on a range of offences after confronting police on the picket lines.

The Scottish Parliament has now agreed to hold a debate on the issue following pressure from Labour MSP Neil Findlay who has claimed that the convictions were miscarriages of justice, with miners arrested on bogus grounds.

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Mr Findlay has now sent out a series of questionnaires to former miners, through the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), asking them whether they believe that any criminal charges against them during the year-long strike were “fabricated” and if they are concerned a conviction is unsafe.

NUM officials have estimated that 60 per cent of the 11,000 miners arrested UK-wide, many for breaches of the peace, were apprehended on “bogus” grounds.

The results of the returned questionnaires will be used by law firm Thompsons, which has represented victims of disasters such as Piper Alpha and Hillsborough, to lodge test cases with the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) later this year.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission in England is already investigating allegations of tampering with statements made by witnesses and officers relating to clashes at the Orgreave coking plant in South Yorkshire in 1984, one of the key flashpoints of the dispute.

Mr Findlay forced the Holyrood debate on the convictions of the strikers, which will be held on 14 March, after Mr MacAskill said any review of the convictions of miners could only take place if individuals contacted the SCCRC.

The Labour MSP said that he had already been contacted by some former miners who claimed they were victims of miscarriages of justice. He said: “I am very pleased to have secured this time for a parliamentary debate on the lessons from Orgreave.

“In England, South Yorkshire police have been exposed for their conduct during the strike, with allegations that include the fabrication and duplication of witness statements, perjury committed by officers and misconduct in public office that led to the arrest of pickets on bogus or exaggerated grounds.

“We have to find out whether these were practices that only occurred in England. I have received information from a number of convicted miners suggesting it was not.

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“I would also appeal to those miners and others who were arrested in Scotland and who feel the charges against them were bogus or trumped up to get in touch with me.”

Mr Findlay’s campaign in support of a review of the convictions has already attracted cross- party support, with SNP MSP John Wilson saying he plans to back the Labour MSP’s stance during the Holyrood debate.

Labour MP David Hamilton, a former miner who spent two months in jail on remand during the 1984-5 strike before being cleared, is another of the campaign’s backers.