Publication - Consultation analysis

Miners' strike 1984/85 pardon consultation: analysis of responses

Published: 17 Aug 2021

Findings from the analysis of the responses received to the consultation, which ran from 12 March 2021 to 4 June 2021.

Miners' strike 1984/85 pardon consultation: analysis of responses
4. Other offence-related matters (Q3 to Q5)

4. Other offence-related matters (Q3 to Q5)

4.1 Question 3: Are there any other offences which miners were convicted for and which related to the Strike that you think should be included in the qualifying criteria? [Yes / No / Don’t know/No opinion]

4.2 If yes, please tell us what other offences you think should be included in the criteria.

4.3 Question 4: Do you think that miners who were convicted of a single offence related to the Strike should be pardoned? [Yes / No / Don’t know/No opinion]

4.4 Please explain your answer.

4.5 Question 5: Do you think that miners who were convicted of multiple offences related to the Strike should be pardoned? [Yes / No / Don’t know/No opinion]

4.6 Please explain your answer.Questions 3 to 5 in the consultation (Part 2) covered other offence-related issues. The consultation paper noted that the independent review had recommended that the qualifying offences for the pardon be restricted to breach of the peace and breach of bail. However, the Scottish Government wished to know whether respondents thought that any other strike-related offences committed by miners (apart from breach of the peace and breach of bail) should be included in the qualifying criteria. Views were also invited on whether committing multiple offences relating to the strike, rather than just one, should be a relevant criterion. Three questions asked for views on these issues as follows:

4.7 The sections below look in turn at the views expressed on these questions.

Other offences which should be included in the qualifying criteria (Q3)

4.8 Question 3 asked respondents if any other strike-related offences which miners were convicted of should be included in the qualifying criteria. Table 4.1 shows that, overall, there was no clear view among respondents on this question. The largest proportion of respondents (44%) answered ‘yes’. However, nearly a fifth (18%) answered ‘no’ and a relatively large proportion (38%) answered ‘don’t know / no opinion’. Organisations were more likely than individuals to answer ‘yes’ to this question – a clear majority of organisational respondents (8 out of 12) said ‘yes’.

Table 4.1: Q3 – Are there any other offences which miners were convicted for and which related to the Strike that you think should be included in the qualifying criteria?
Respondent type Yes No Don’t know / No opinion Total
Individuals 123 (43%) 50 (18%) 111 (39%) 284 (100%)
Organisations 8 (67%) 2 (17%) 2 (17%) 12 (100%)
Total 131 (44%) 52 (18%) 113 (38%) 296 (100%)

Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

4.9 The campaign response said ‘no’ at Question 3. This reply appears somewhat ambiguous when considered alongside the accompanying comments: ‘No – all those who were arrested should be considered for a pardon.’ Other respondents who called for a pardon for all miners or all offences in their comments generally ticked ‘yes’ at the closed part of Question 3 (see paragraphs 4.10–4.11). However, answering ‘no’ can reasonably be interpreted as a preference for a ‘blanket’ pardon, rather than a pardon with a specified list of offences included within set eligibility criteria. Note that in a few instances other respondents who ticked ‘no’ also provided potentially ambiguous comments of this type.

4.10 Respondents who answered ‘yes’ at Question 3 were asked to say what other offences they thought should be included in the criteria for a pardon. Among those who answered ‘yes’, 112 respondents (8 organisations and 104 individuals) provided further comments. Comments were also submitted by some respondents who answered ‘no’ or ‘don’t know / no opinion’ at Question 3.

4.11 Across Questions 1 to 3, there was a notable group of respondents who answered ‘yes’ to Questions 1 and 2, and then answered ‘no’ or ‘don’t know / no opinion’ at Question 3, with the overall proportion of respondents answering ‘no’ or ‘don’t know / no opinion’ much higher than for the previous two questions. However, respondents answering in this way did not often provide comments at Question 3, so it is not possible to fully explore and understand this pattern of responses.

4.12 It was also common for respondents to make (or re-state) at Question 3 points made in response to Question 1. These comments are not repeated in detail here, and, as far as possible, the analysis below focuses on the specific issue of whether offences other than breach of the peace and breach of bail should be included in the qualifying criteria for the proposed pardon.

Views of those who thought other offences should be included

4.13 Respondents who ticked ‘yes’ at Question 3 often provided general comments as to why they thought additional offences should be included in the qualifying criteria for the proposed pardon, or reiterated points made at previous questions in support of the proposed pardon.

4.14 Those who went on to comment more specifically about the offences they thought should be included offered three main views: (i) that all offences for which miners were convicted should be included, (ii) that other specific offences should be included, and (iii) that other general types of offence should be included (sometimes described in terms of types of offences that should be excluded or included). Overall, around a third of those answering ‘yes’ at Question 3 put forward proposals for other offences (or types of offences) which might be included in the criteria. Comments related to each of these perspectives are discussed below.

Inclusion of ‘all’ offences

4.15 The most common view was that all offences – or as specified by some, all offences related to the strike – should be covered by the criteria. Respondents also variously called for all ‘arrests’, ‘charges’ or ‘convictions’ to be included, or said that convictions should be ‘annulled’, ‘quashed’, ‘scrapped’, ‘expunged’ or ‘looked at’ or ‘reviewed’. Some who ticked ‘no’ also made comments of this type (see paragraph 4.4 above), and their views are included in the analysis below.

4.16 In most cases, respondents in this group provided brief answers only; however, those who did expand on their views offered somewhat differing emphases in their comments. For example, one respondent highlighted a caveat, saying that ‘all convictions related to legitimate and lawful strike action should be included’, while another called for a fully inclusive approach saying that the criteria should be ‘simplified’ and ‘that all convictions arising from the period of the miners' strike should be pardoned unconditionally’.

Specific offences put forward for inclusion in the qualifying criteria

4.17 Respondents put forward a wide range of proposals for offences they wished to see included in the qualifying criteria for the proposed pardon. Prominent among the suggestions were offences prosecuted under Section 41 of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967.

4.18 Section 41 of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 criminalised a person who ‘assaults, resists, obstructs, molests or hinders a constable in the execution of his duty … or rescues or attempts to rescue, or assists or attempts to assist the escape of, any person in custody’. Several organisational respondents noted that the independent review had highlighted breaches of Section 41 of the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 (hereafter ‘the 1967 Act’) as the next most common grounds for arrest during the miners’ strike (after breach of the peace), and that (according to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Scotland) such charges had generally related to picket line activity, often in conjunction with a breach of the peace charge for the same offence.

4.19 Other individual respondents also cited charges under the 1967 Act, or proposed more generally that offences related to obstruction or resisting arrest should be included in the criteria for the pardon, with some explaining how such charges might have arisen as a result of police action when faced with picket lines:

‘When the police grab a picket and force their arms behind their back, you struggle. By trying to ease the pain you end up by being charged with breach of the peace, assault, and resisting arrest.’ (Individual respondent)

4.20 Additionally, in relation to Section 41 offences, one organisation cited legal precedence for treating charges related to resisting arrest as unlawful if an original arrest was found to be unlawful.[8] This respondent did not answer the closed part of Question 3 but noted in their comments that ‘if the policing of arrest in an offence in relation to the miner’s strike was not lawful, all offences which follow should also be unlawful’.

4.21 Other specific offences proposed for inclusion were those relating to:

  • Offences under the Conspiracy, and Protection of Property Act 1875
  • ‘Illegal’ strike action and picketing activity including that related to flying pickets and mass picketing, and other activity such as sit-ins, shouting at working miners, and challenging the police
  • Rioting, riotous assembly
  • Vandalism and damage, including against National Coal Board (NCB) property, and destruction of public property
  • Trespass, trespass on the Queen’s highway
  • Assault, including assault of police officers, assault related to picketing, assault provoked by the police – some respondents described how miners might be charged with such offences after themselves being assaulted by the police
  • Offences linked to travelling to picket lines, minor road traffic offences associated with other offences included in the criteria
  • Offences linked to poverty, financial difficulties and providing for their family – such as stealing food and fuel, and shoplifting
  • Non-payment of fines
  • Drunk and disorderly behaviour.

General offence types put forward for inclusion in the qualifying criteria

4.22 Those making more general statements about the types of offence that should be included in the pardon criteria mentioned the following:

  • All public order offences
  • All minor offences
  • All but the most thoroughly evidenced convictions
  • Any offences seen to stem from the ‘toxic environment’ of the strike
  • Any offences provoked by the police.

4.23 Alternatively, some said that all but the most serious offences or those involving violence should be included in the criteria.

Other views

4.24 Occasionally, respondents who ticked ‘yes’ said that the pardoning of other types of offences should depend on the circumstances of the case or be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

Views of those who thought other offences should not be included

4.25 As shown in Table 4.1 above, just under a fifth of respondents (18%) did not think any other offences should be included in the qualifying criteria. Those who responded in this way and explained their views often simply repeated comments made at earlier questions, for example, stating that the law had been broken and that a pardon was not therefore justified, or that other avenues were available for challenging convictions and sentences. However, in a small number of cases, respondents who answered ‘no’ at Question 3 used their comments to highlight the potentially serious nature of offences other than breach of the peace and breach of bail.

4.26 The only organisation answering ‘no’ at Question 3 and providing comments, said simply that this was ‘consistent with the criteria proposed by the independent review’.

Conviction for single offence or multiple offences (Q4 and Q5)

4.27 Two consultation question (Questions 4 and 5) asked for views about the pardoning of miners convicted of single or multiple offences. There was a great deal of overlap in the views expressed in response to these questions, and thus they are dealt with in a single section, below. The response to the closed part of each question is shown separately, followed by an integrated analysis of the comments made by respondents.

4.28 Question 4 asked respondents if they thought that miners who were convicted of a single offence related to the strike should be pardoned. Table 4.2 shows that a large majority of respondents (87%) agreed with this proposal, whilst 10% disagreed, with a similar pattern of response for individuals and organisations.

Table 4.2: Q4 – Do you think that miners who were convicted of a single offence related to the Strike should be pardoned?
Respondent type Yes No Don’t know / No opinion Total
Individuals 251 (87%) 30 (10%) 9 (3%) 290 (100%)
Organisations 11 (92%) 1 (8%) – (0%) 12 (100%)
Total 262 (87%) 31 (10%) 9 (3%) 302 (100%)

4.29 In addition, the campaign response said ‘yes’ to Question 4.

4.30 Question 5 asked respondents if they thought that miners who were convicted of multiple offences related to the strike should be pardoned. Table 4.3 shows that a large majority (78%) agreed with this proposal, and 13% disagreed. Furthermore, there was a similar pattern of response among individuals and organisations. However, the proportion agreeing that miners convicted of multiple offences related to the strike should be pardoned (78%) was slightly lower than the proportion agreeing that miners convicted of a single offence should be pardoned (87%, see again Table 4.2, above). This reflected changing views among individuals – rather than organisations.

Table 4.3: Q5 – Do you think that miners who were convicted of multiple offences related to the Strike should be pardoned?
Respondent type Yes No Don’t know / No opinion Total
Individuals 221 (77%) 39 (14%) 26 (9%) 286 (100%)
Organisations 11 (92%) 1 (8%) – (0%) 12 (100%)
Total 232 (78%) 40 (13%) 26 (9%) 298 (100%)

4.31 The campaign response said ‘yes’ to Question 5.

4.32 Altogether, 168 respondents (12 organisations and 156 individuals) provided further comments at Question 4, while 166 respondents (12 organisations and 154 individuals) provided further comments at Question 5. The campaign response also included comments on both questions.

4.33 For the most part, respondents gave the same answer at the closed question for both these questions (i.e. they said ‘yes’ at both questions or ‘no’ at both questions), and there was a great deal of commonality in the comments made, particularly at the general level. Thus, the sections below consider (i) the views of those who agreed that miners convicted of single and / or multiple offences should be pardoned, and (ii) the views of those who disagreed that miners convicted of single and / or multiple offences should be pardoned. Subsequent sections look briefly at the views of those who agreed with pardoning those with single but not multiple convictions, and the views of those offering other uncertain or more mixed or nuanced views on this issue.

Agreement that those with single or multiple convictions should be pardoned

4.34 As shown in Table 4.2 and 4.3, almost nine out of ten respondents said that miners convicted of a single offence related to the strike should be pardoned, while a slightly lower proportion (but still a relatively large majority) of respondents said that miners convicted of multiple offence should be pardoned.

4.35 It was common for respondents at both questions to explain their views with reference to points made at earlier questions. They said, for example, that all offences should be pardoned, or repeated general reasons why they thought miners should be pardoned for strike-related offences: the miners had been taking part in lawful and legitimate industrial action to protect jobs, livelihoods and communities; the response to the strike had been politically motivated; the policing of the strike had been politically driven, disproportionate and unwarranted; and the resulting arrests, prosecution and convictions had been unjustified and unsound.

4.36 Across both Questions 4 and 5, but particularly at Question 5, there was a view that the number of convictions was not relevant to the granting of a pardon, given the circumstances of the strike, as argued by the following respondents:

‘[T]he number of convictions is irrelevant. Policing of the strike was a disgrace. These were men trying to save their industry, not just their own jobs, the culture associated with it…and the viability of their communities. They reacted to provocation (we can say they should not have done, but that would have been a tall order) and whether they did so once, or many times should not be an issue.’ (Individual respondent)

‘Whether one or ten they were unjust so all should be pardoned.’ (Individual respondent)

4.37 Those who explicitly addressed the issues of single or multiple convictions, offered a range of other comments, as presented below.

Pardoning of those with single convictions

4.38 Respondents who commented specifically on the pardoning of those with single convictions tended to make one of two main points. First, they argued that, in many cases, a strike-related conviction would have been an individual’s first and only offence of any type and should be viewed in that light. Respondents said that ‘a single act does not point to sustained criminality’, or that miners had been ‘law abiding before the strike and law abiding after’. The consequences of a single conviction were also noted, as follows:

‘Even a single offence means that otherwise law-abiding citizens acquired a criminal record.’ (Individual respondent)

4.39 Second, respondents said that the particular context of the strike would have led to individuals being arrested and convicted in ways that would not have been the case in other circumstances:

‘Given the situation and how the law was being used, the single offender was probably just unlucky to be lifted out the crowd.’ (Individual respondent)

4.40 More generally, some also drew attention to the strike being a time when ‘feelings ran high on both sides’, or when ‘tensions were high and mistakes were made’.

Pardoning of those with multiple convictions

4.41 In discussing the reasons why those convicted of multiple offences should be pardoned, respondents again discussed the particular circumstances of the strike. They made a number of linked points.

4.42 First, respondents referred to the ‘inevitability’ of multiple convictions because of the nature of the strike:

‘A man may have been convicted and then released, perhaps after a period of imprisonment, and then re-arrested. Given that the strike lasted the best part of a year, it would be possible for this to happen.’ (Organisational respondent – other)

4.43 However, respondents also argued that this pattern of multiple convictions was the result of deliberate policing practices and tactics used in response to the strike. There was a suggestion that almost everyone arrested during the dispute was given multiple charges like ‘obstructing an officer in his duties, resisting arrest, police assault...’

4.44 In addition, the practice of applying multiple charges to a single offence was described by a number of organisational respondents as a way of securing a conviction:

‘The issue of “multiple offences” is very misleading. The documents evidencing arrests during the strike which were provided to the Independent Review by the NUM (Scotland Area) show or tend to show that miners were routinely charged with multiple offences arising out of a single incident. Almost without exception, that “single incident” occurred during picketing.’ (Organisational respondents – one (1) legal and two (2) trade union related bodies)

4.45 In a similar vein, it was also highlighted that many miners convicted of multiple offences were convicted of an original offence and of breaching bail conditions imposed in relation to the original offence (see also Question 2). One individual respondent described this as ‘effectively being punished twice for the same non-offence’.

4.46 Other respondents talked about the repeated targeting of specific individual miners by the police – particularly those active in the union, in strike organisation or on picket lines – with the aim of thwarting strike-related activity either at an individual or collective level:

‘…many miners were subjected to repeated attention from the police because of their organising role in the trade union. This victimisation was used as a deterrent to intimidate activists and prevent their ability to make arrangements and preparations.’ (Organisational respondent – other)

4.47 Broadly speaking, respondents expressing these views saw the incidence of multiple convictions as a function of the approach taken by the police rather than as an indicator that distinguished those with single and multiple convictions in any significant way.

Disagreement that those with single or multiple convictions should be pardoned

4.48 Respondents who disagreed that miners convicted of single offences should be pardoned largely repeated points made at earlier questions. Most commonly they said that the miners had broken the law (sometimes in relation to serious or violent offences), and had been treated appropriately in that context, and convicted on the basis of the evidence presented.

4.49 Those making more direct reference to the issue of whether a pardon should be made for single offences often said that this was ‘irrelevant’ or ‘doesn’t matter’, or said that that there was no reason to treat miners any differently from other offenders, with one respondent saying:

‘The fact that the individuals were miners is irrelevant. If those convicted of a single offence are pardoned, then surely any other individual, regardless of occupation, should also be able to receive a pardon. It is deeply unfair to give preferential treatment under the law to a specific group.’ (Individual respondent)

4.50 Those making direct reference to whether a pardon should be made for those with multiple offences tended to comment in terms of a perceived pattern of offending or the perceived motivation and intent of the individual concerned, with their comments suggesting that they thought this should disqualify someone from receiving a pardon:

‘Absolutely not. If someone has engaged in a course of conduct that has led to multiple convictions, then this shows that that person has no regard to others, themselves or their families or more importantly the law.’ (Individual respondent)

4.51 However, there was also a view that the nature of the multiple convictions might be a valid consideration, with one respondent raising the issue of whether the question related to ‘one offence with multiple charges on one occasion, or multiple offences over different times’ – a situation also discussed by respondents who generally agreed with pardoning those with multiple offences (see paragraphs 4.36–4.42).

Agreement that those with single but not multiple convictions should be pardoned

4.52 Tables 4.2 and 4.3, above, showed that a small number of individual respondents thought a pardon should be given to miners with single offences, but should not necessarily be given to miners with multiple offences. Where the responses of these individuals changed from ‘yes’ to ‘don’t know / no opinion’, they generally said (at Question 5) that it depended on the nature and seriousness of the offence(s), or they thought that eligibility for a pardon should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

4.53 It was less common for individuals to answer ‘yes’ at Question 4 but ‘no’ at Question 5. However, those who did so, and who explained their views, made a distinction between single and multiple offences and what this indicated about the intent of the perpetrator, as illustrated in the quote below:

‘Committing multiple offences is not getting caught up in the heat of the moment and being unlucky in getting arrested.’ (Individual respondent)

Other views

4.54 In addition to the main views presented above, a relatively small group of respondents expressed uncertain or more mixed or nuanced views at Questions 4 and 5 about the eligibility of those with single or multiple convictions. This group of respondents included those who answered ‘don’t know / no opinion’ to Questions 4 and / or 5 and those who did not answer the tick-box questions, but it also included those who answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but then qualified their overall response.

4.55 These respondents generally expressed reservations, to varying degrees, about a ‘blanket’ approach to pardoning convicted miners, and thought that this should depend on the nature, seriousness and frequency of offending. Some also suggested that the strength of evidence in the original case, and the personal circumstances of the individual, were relevant factors.

4.56 One organisational respondent (that did not answer the closed tick-box question) also commented on the application of the pardon to those with multiple convictions, and the relevance of the circumstances of individual cases to this:

‘That depends on the criteria of the offence, its relationship to the strike and whether the multiple incidents were on one date related to one incident or multiple as in related to the strike but arising on more than one date.’ (Organisational respondent – legal)

4.57 Occasionally, respondents, particularly those who had answered ‘yes’ at either of the questions, proposed more specific conditions saying for example, that pardons should be restricted to breach of the peace and breach of bail offences (seen as being in line with the independent review recommendations), or that serious violent offences should be excluded. The issue of the seriousness of offences is discussed in further detail in relation to Question 8 (in Chapter 5).

4.58 In addition, particularly amongst those who ticked ‘no’ at Questions 4 and 5, there were two less common views that (i) pardons should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis with scope to consider the detail and circumstances of each case, and (ii) a tribunal should be established to consider specific cases (involving either single or multiple offences). However, these views were generally expressed by just one or two respondents.


Contact

Email: minersstrikepardon@gov.scot