When Historical Crimes Don’t Count

Operation Yewtree

Since the instigation of Operation Yewtree we have seen senior law figures, including the Director of Public Prosecutions, telling the public that it doesn’t matter how long ago a crime may have been committed or who committed it, if there is evidence, we are coming for you.

Indeed, this commitment predates Operation Yewtree by many years and has involved the police trawling for victims; the result has been some terrible miscarriages of justice which have seen many men, and a few women, convicted of heinous crimes against the young. On the celebrity front, Max Clifford, Rolf Harris and even arguably the odious Gary Glitter have been convicted of imaginary offences. The former DJ Dave Lee Travis was pursued with incredible venom. When his first trial resulted in a string of acquittals and two undecided charges, the Crown opted for a retrial and added another charge out of sheer malice.

The evidence against these defendants was of the most unreliable kind, fragmented memories contaminated by the Savile witch-hunt. In stark contrast to this is the decision of the IPCC not to bring charges against any of the police accused of impropriety at the Orgreave coking plant during the 1984 miners’ strike.

Unlike those brought against Harris et al, these are not strictly speaking historical allegations. To begin with there are not only contemporaneous witness statements but there is also plenty of footage of the confrontations between the police and the miners, yet according to the IPCC:

“the passage of time means that allegations of assault and of misconduct could not now be pursued” – tell that to Rolf Harris, the oldest allegation against whom is dated to 1970 or perhaps 1969.

“Thousands of pages of documents, film, and photographic material from across the country were gathered, secured and analysed for the first time as a result of the complex scoping exercise following South Yorkshire Police’s referral in November 2012. New material continued to be identified and examined as late as December 2014.” – Newly acquired contemporaneous evidence is a reason for not bringing charges or even mounting a proper investigation?

Those who are au fait with the privilege money can’t buy will not be the slightest bit surprised by these semantic gymnastics, the most disgusting example of which happened in 1995 when charges against the tormentors of the tragic Stefan Kiszko were thrown out.

In July 1976, Kiszko was convicted at Leeds Crown Court of the murder of the eleven year old Lesley Molseed, a crime that was committed by Ronald Castree, who was himself convicted of it in November 2007, fourteen years after Kiszko’s death.

At the time of Kiszko’s trial, the police, the prosecutor and the forensic scientist concerned knew he was innocent, yet they conspired to suppress the evidence that proved this. Kizko’s family never gave up, and in 1992 his conviction was quashed. Charges were then brought against former Chief Superintendent Dick Holland and the forensic scientist Alan Outteridge. What happened next was a wonder to behold. As reported by the Rochdale Observer, May 3, 1995, Stipendiary Magistrate Jane Hayward stayed the prosecution after a two day hearing due to the deaths of a number of witnesses and people who took part in the trial, and “The loss of a number of documents vital to the trial”. That last ground is classic. In other words, frame a man for murder, cover it up for a decade and a half, then claim you can’t get a fair trial because of the delay and the documents you have lost.

There is still a slim chance there will be a public inquiry into the 1984 Orgreave unrest. Whether or not any such investigation would be in the public interest, and whether or not any police officer warrants being charged with any offence, the reader should be in no doubt about the real motives for permanently staying this investigation.


About the author

Alexander Baron

  • janenlee

    where oh where are we going with this?