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
5. Previous or subsequent convictions (Q6 to Q8)

5. Previous or subsequent convictions (Q6 to Q8)

5.1 Question 6: Do you agree that miners who had been convicted of an offence before the Strike began in March 1984 should be pardoned for offences committed during the Strike? [Yes / No / Don’t know/No opinion]

5.2 Please explain your answer.

5.3 Question 7: Do you agree that miners who were convicted of an offence after the Strike ended in March 1985, and which did not relate to conduct during the Strike, should be pardoned for a conviction related to the Strike? [Yes / No / Don’t know/No opinion]

5.4 Please explain your answer.

5.5 Question 8: In considering your responses to question 6 and question 7, do you think that the severity of the offending is relevant? [Yes / No / Don’t know/No opinion]

5.6 Please explain your answer.The independent review panel recommended that, in order to receive a pardon, miners must have had no previous convictions before the strike began in March 1984 and also must have no subsequent convictions after the strike ended in March 1985. Part 3 of the consultation asked for views on whether a history of offending – either before or after the strike – should (or should not) disqualify someone from receiving a pardon, and whether the severity of the offending was relevant to this issue. There were three questions as follows:

5.7 The sections below cover each of these questions in turn.

5.8 It should be noted that a relatively large proportion of respondents did not fully engage with these questions in their comments. In relation to all these questions, between a third and two-fifths of respondents who provided further comments simply said ‘see my previous answer’ or ‘see above’; or they repeated their views (expressed in relation to earlier questions) that all miners should be pardoned or (by contrast) that miners found guilty of an offence should not be pardoned; or they made some other type of statement which did not directly address the question – e.g. that miners were fighting for their jobs or (alternatively) that they broke the law and should pay the price.

Convictions for offences prior to the strike (Q6)

5.9 Question 6 asked respondents if they agreed that miners who had been convicted of an offence before the strike began (i.e. prior to March 1984) should be pardoned for offences committed during the strike. Table 5.1 shows that a majority of respondents (69% overall) agreed, whilst around a fifth (19%) disagreed. There was a similar pattern of response among individuals and organisations, although a slightly higher proportion of organisations compared to individuals said ‘yes’ at this question.

Table 5.1: Q6 – Do you agree that miners who had been convicted of an offence before the Strike began in March 1984, should be pardoned for offences committed during the Strike?
Respondent type Yes No Don’t know / No opinion Total
Individuals 198 (69%) 55 (19%) 36 (12%) 289 (100%)
Organisations 10 (77%) 2* (15%) 1 (8%) 13 (100%)
Total 208 (69%) 57 (19%) 37 (12%) 302 (100%)

* Note that one organisation appeared to have misread the question, with their comments suggesting that their ‘no’ response does not relate to the question set out in the consultation paper. See the footnote at paragraph 5.18 below.

5.10 The campaign response said ‘yes’ to Question 6.

5.11 Altogether, 162 respondents (12 organisations and 150 individuals) provided further comments at Question 6. The campaign response also included comments. Note that those who answered ‘don’t know / no opinion’ at Question 6 generally expressed caveats similar to those expressed by some respondents who answered ‘yes’. Thus, the comments of these two groups are discussed together, below.

Views supporting a pardon for miners with prior convictions

5.12 Among individuals and organisations answering ‘yes’ at Question 6, the main view was that convictions or offences committed prior to the miners’ strike in 1984/85 were ‘irrelevant’ to the decision to pardon an individual for convictions or offences committed during the strike.

‘…If they committed an offence before the 1984 strike, that’s a totally different situation. What has that got to do with the strike??’ (Individual respondent)

‘Offences committed before the strike are irrelevant to the collective pardon that should be extended to all Scottish miners convicted of offences during the strike.’ (Individual respondent)

5.13 In general, this group thought all former miners should be pardoned for strike-related convictions regardless of any convictions they may have had prior to the strike.

5.14 Respondents often gave examples of minor, or trivial, offences (e.g. failure to pay a TV licence, being drunk and disorderly, stealing sweets as a child, etc.), to highlight the lack of relevance to considerations about a pardon for strike-related offences.

‘Previous convictions, for example a road traffic offence or failure to pay a TV licence, bear no relation to convictions during the strike. Miners who were convicted during the strike should be pardoned.’ (Campaign response)

5.15 Moreover, both individual and organisational respondents also often made the point that any convictions prior to the strike were already spent – that is, they would no longer appear on a person’s criminal record – and therefore, it would not be ‘fair’ to disqualify that individual from a pardon for strike-related convictions on the basis of those previous convictions.

‘The alleged offences committed during the strike should be examined separately from any previous convictions a person may have prior to the strike as it would be unfair to judge someone on any previous conviction that had already been dealt with in the past.’ (Individual respondent)

5.16 The point was also made that a policy of disqualifying individuals for a pardon on the basis of their previous offending could be seen as discriminatory, since it would most likely result in pardons being granted to men who were younger at the time of the strike and withheld from those who were older at the time of the strike.

‘The miners who were arrested were of all age groups with varied working backgrounds, and therefore, it would be manifestly wrong to penalise older miners for a minor offence committed in their past.’ (Individual respondent)

5.17 Very occasionally, individuals who answered ‘yes’ expressed caveats to their overall response. However, the precise meaning of these was not always clear. For example, one individual replied: ‘For non-violent offences only’. It is not clear, in this case, whether this respondent was arguing for a pardon for non-violent strike-related offences only, or whether they were suggesting that a pardon should be offered to former miners whose convictions prior to the strike related to non-violent offences only. Another similar (and similarly ambiguous) caveat was: ‘depending on the severity, nature and context of the conviction’. However, one organisation also qualified their affirmative response at Question 6. This organisation was clear that, so long as the strike-related offending did not involve serious violence, then any offences prior to the strike should not be a consideration in determining whether a miner is eligible for a pardon.

5.18 Note that respondents who answered ‘don’t know / no opinion’ at Question 6 usually expressed caveats and these were similar to those expressed by respondents who answered ‘yes’ (e.g. ‘depends on the offences’ / ‘depends on the severity or circumstances surrounding the incident’). However, again, it was not always clear whether these caveats referred to the offences committed prior to the strike, or the offences committed during the strike.

5.19 A small number of individuals and organisations raised a separate issue in their comments at Question 6. This related to offences that miners may have committed prior to the official start of the national strike which were, in fact, related to industrial disputes and actions. There was a suggestion among these respondents that the eligibility for a pardon should be extended to cover offences committed during this period of time.

‘There was a long time period of heightened industrial tension as a result of the policies of the National Coal Board and the Thatcher government prior to the strike starting. And so, because this is the case, the formal start of the strike should not be a cut off point for those who should be pardoned.’ (Individual respondent)

Views opposing a pardon for miners with prior convictions

5.20 Respondents who answered ‘no’ at Question 6 frequently repeated or referred back to comments they had made in response to Questions 1 to 5. In general, this group objected to the principle of a pardon for miners who were convicted of offences during the strike. Very few of these respondents addressed the issue of whether a previous conviction should or should not disqualify an individual for a pardon in relation to offences committed during the strike.

5.21 However, a small number of individuals who answered ‘no’ at Question 6 stated that convictions before the strike ‘had nothing to do with the strike’, or that convictions before the strike and convictions during the strike ‘should be unconnected’. These comments – taken together with the individual’s ‘no’ response at Question 6 – suggest that these respondents thought the question of a miner’s previous convictions was irrelevant – and that miners should not receive a pardon, regardless of these previous convictions.

5.22 However, the comments made by some respondents suggest the possibility that they may have misunderstood the question and thought it was asking about whether offences committed before the strike should be pardoned.

‘Offences before the strike should stand. If you break the law, you do the time’. (Individual respondent)

5.23 Two organisations also answered ‘no’ at Question 6. One of these expressed similar views to individuals as discussed in paragraph 5.15 above. This organisation was opposed in principle to pardoning miners who were convicted of strike-related offences. The second organisation appeared to have misread the question.[9]

Convictions for offences after the strike (Q7)

5.24 Question 7 asked respondents if they agreed that miners who were convicted of an offence after the strike ended in March 1985, which did not relate to conduct during the strike, should be pardoned for a conviction related to the strike. Table 5.2 shows that, overall, around two-thirds of respondents (64%) agreed with this proposal and around a quarter (25%) disagreed. There was a similar pattern of response among individuals and organisations on this question.

Table 5.2: Q7 – Do you agree that miners who were convicted of an offence after the Strike ended in March 1985, and which did not relate to conduct during the Strike, should be pardoned for a conviction related to the Strike?
Respondent type Yes No Don’t know / No opinion Total
Individuals 182 (64%) 72 (25%) 31 (11%) 285 (100%)
Organisations 9 (69%) 3 (23%) 1 (8%) 13 (100%)
Total 191 (64%) 75 (25%) 32 (11%) 298 (100%)

5.25 The campaign response said ‘yes’ to this question.

5.26 Altogether, 149 respondents (12 organisations and 137 individuals) provided further comments at Question 7. The campaign response also included comments.

Views supporting a pardon for miners with unrelated convictions after the strike

5.27 Respondents who answered ‘yes’ at Question 7 expressed several views in their comments (some of which may have resulted from a misunderstanding of the question).

5.28 The most common view among this group was that convictions for unrelated offences committed after the strike should have no bearing on a miner’s eligibility for a pardon for strike-related convictions. Some respondents re-stated their view (expressed in response to Question 6) that the convictions for any such unrelated offences will have been punished at the time, and therefore should not disqualify any individual for a pardon.

‘The principle must be that all miners convicted of an offence related to the strike are pardoned. The notion that some are undeserving is an insult.’ (Individual respondent).

‘An offence that occurred after the strike and which had been dealt with by the courts or others should be ‘spent’ and therefore should not preclude a pardon.’ (Individual respondent)

5.29 Some respondents simply referred back to their comments at Question 6 – rather than re-state their arguments.

5.30 Although Question 7 asked specifically about unrelated offences committed after the strike, some respondents wanted to clarify that any convictions after the strike – which were strike-related – should also be eligible for a pardon. Those who raised this issue made two points. First, some argued that delays in the justice system could have resulted in individuals who were accused of an offence during the strike not being tried (or convicted) until after the strike. Second, some suggested that even after the strike ended, some miners continued to be treated unfairly – by the National Coal Board and local police – and that this may have resulted in strike-related convictions occurring after the strike had ended.

‘Industrial disputes are not self-contained. There are different phases to them, including after a return to work. The NCB and the government continued to attack the Miner[s] and their communities after the formal strike ended, and therefore Miners who were convicted after the strike ended should also be pardoned.’ (Individual respondent)

5.31 It was also relatively common for respondents who answered ‘yes’ at Question 7 to say that offences which occurred after the strike and which may seem to be unrelated to the strike – could, in fact, be seen as an impact of the strike – i.e. the result of an individual losing their livelihood.

‘I personally know miners who were blacklisted due to their convictions during the strike. These men could not get work and were left unable to earn enough to keep themselves and their families. If one of them got a conviction for shoplifting years later due to their being stressed and desperate to feed their families, why should that prevent them from being pardoned?’ (Individual respondent)

‘Miners found themselves unable to sustain a livelihood and maintain their family as a result of unsound convictions, mental health may have been affected, and unwise choices may have been made.’ (Individual respondent)

5.32 The respondents who made these types of comments did not think post-strike offences should prevent a miner from being pardoned for strike-related convictions. However, it was not always clear if these respondents were also suggesting that miners should be pardoned for post-strike convictions as well. Very few respondents who answered ‘yes’ at Question 7 explicitly stated that the pardon should be ‘only for convictions occurring during the strike’, or ‘only for strike-related convictions’.

5.33 Finally, a relatively small number of respondents who answered ‘yes’ (or ‘don’t know / no opinion’) at Question 7 expressed caveats. In most cases, these related to the nature (or seriousness) of the offence. It was not always clear, however, whether these caveats related to the seriousness of the strike-related offence, or the seriousness of the offence after the strike. Only occasionally did the respondent state specifically that the seriousness of the offence during the strike was the important criterion.

‘On the basis that the offence committed during the strike did not involve serious violence, even though the miner was subsequently convicted of an offence after the strike, which did not relate to conduct during the strike, the miner should be entitled to a pardon in respect of the offence committed during the strike.’ (Organisational respondent – other)

Views opposed to a pardon for miners with unrelated convictions after the strike

5.34 Respondents who answered ‘no’ at Question 7 generally did so because they were opposed in principle to a pardon being given to miners convicted of offences during the strike. This group repeated views previously expressed that ‘they broke the law, so they pay the price’, or ‘judicial procedure was carried out’, and they expressed concerns that such a pardon indicated a disregard for ‘law and society’.

5.35 Some respondents in this group may have misunderstood the question – believing that it was asking about whether convictions for offences committed after the strike should be pardoned. In a few cases, the comments of respondents who answered ‘no’ suggested that they supported a pardon for strike-related offences, but did not support a pardon for unrelated offences committed after the strike.

5.36 A small number of additional points were made by respondents who answered ‘no’ at Question 7, including that:

  • A conviction after the strike suggests that offences committed during the strike were not simply an indication of a ‘lapse of good behaviour’, and so miners with post-strike convictions should not be eligible for a pardon for convictions during the strike.
  • Convictions that related to conduct during (and related to) the strike, but which arose after the strike, should be covered by the pardon.
  • Cases should be reviewed (i.e. decided on a ‘case-by-case’ basis) where a miner had a conviction for a non-strike-related offence committed after the strike.

5.37 However, each of these points were usually made by just one or two respondents. It was also noted by one respondent who answered ‘no’ at Question 7 that the independent review had proposed that miners with convictions for non-strike-related offences committed after the strike should not be eligible for a pardon for strike-related convictions.

Severity of other offending (Q8)

5.38 Question 8 asked respondents whether the severity of offending was a relevant issue in relation to their responses to Questions 6 and 7 above. Table 5.3 shows that, overall, just over half of respondents (52%) answered ‘no’ to this question, whilst around a third (34%) answered ‘yes’. Organisations were more likely than individuals to answer ‘no’, and individuals were more likely than organisations to answer ‘don’t know / no opinion’.

Table 5.3: Q8 – In considering your responses to question 6 and question 7, do you think that the severity of the offending is relevant?
Respondent type Yes No Don’t know / No opinion Total
Individuals 97 (34%) 144 (51%) 43 (15%) 284 (100%)
Organisations 4 (31%) 9 (69%) – (0%) 13 (100%)
Total 101 (34%) 153 (52%) 43 (14%) 297 (100%)

5.39 The campaign response did not address the ‘yes’ / ‘no’ part of Question 8. It did, however, provide comments.

5.40 In addition, among those who submitted substantive responses to the consultation, 134 (10 organisations and 124 individuals) also provided comments at Question 8.

5.41 It was clear from the comments that there was considerable confusion – and different understandings – about what this question was asking. The question referred to Questions 6 and 7 which concerned, respectively, the eligibility of miners for a pardon if they had (i) convictions for offences committed before the miners’ strike and (ii) convictions for offences committed after the miners’ strike. Therefore, the implication was that the ‘severity of offending’ referred to in Question 8 related to any offences that miners may have committed before or after the strike. The fact that these three questions (6, 7 and 8) comprised Part 3 of the consultation paper – which concerned ‘previous or subsequent convictions’ – further strengthens this interpretation.

5.42 However, some respondents (both individuals and organisations) understood Question 8 as asking about offences that miners committed during the strike. The differences in interpretation of this question were as likely to be made by those answering ‘yes’ to Question 8 as those answering ‘no’. For this reason, the figures shown in Table 5.3 above should be treated with caution.

5.43 Some respondents specifically expressed their uncertainty about the meaning of the question in their comments and attempted to clarify their views in relation to both possible interpretations. For example, one organisation answered ‘yes’ in response to Question 8, and commented that:

‘In answering YES we are assuming that the ‘severity of offending’ relates to the offence committed during the strike…. [W]e consider that the severity of offending as recommended by the review panel is a relevant criterion. If, however, your reference to ‘severity of offending’ relates to the pre- and post-strike offence, then we do not think that this is relevant, provided it is not a strike-related pre- or post-strike offence.’ (Organisational respondent – other)

5.44 Another individual who answered ‘no’ in response to Question 8, commented that:

‘I find the wording of this question unclear. If the question is whether my answer to question 6 and question 7 could be qualified by the severity of possible offending before and / or after the strike, then my answer to this question is ‘no’. The pardon relates only to conviction for offences committed during the strike. The grounds for pardon for these offences are clear, as set out in my responses to questions 1–5. If the question in fact relates to the severity of offending during the strike, then it should be noted – anticipating my answer to question 10 – that no miners in Scotland were convicted of offences committed during that strike that were sufficiently serious to warrant a prison sentence. With this interpretation of the question, my answer is also ‘no’.’ (Individual respondent)

5.45 Bearing in mind these different understandings of the question, the remainder of this section sets out the range of views expressed in respondents’ comments. There were five main views expressed. The first main view was generally expressed by respondents who answered ‘yes’ at Question 8. This was, simply, that eligibility for a pardon should take into consideration the seriousness of the offence.

5.46 The remaining four views were mainly voiced by respondents who answered ‘no’ (or in some cases ‘don’t know / no opinion’) to Question 8.[10] These were: (i) that the seriousness of offences committed before or after the strike is not relevant to the question of whether to pardon miners for strike-related convictions; (ii) that convictions for strike-related activities were ‘unsafe’, based on unreliable evidence and politically motivated; (iii) that strike-related offences could not, in general, be described as ‘serious’ in nature; and (iv) that offences committed during the strike were often the result of severe provocation. Each of these are discussed below.

The seriousness of the offences should be a relevant consideration

5.47 For the most part, respondents who answered ‘yes’ to Question 8 thought that the seriousness of the offences should be a relevant consideration in determining eligibility for a pardon. The comments from these respondents did not usually state explicitly whether they understood the question as referring to unrelated offences committed prior or subsequent to the strike, or to strike-related offences committed during the strike. However, the comments generally suggested the latter interpretation.

5.48 Some within this group identified specific types of offending behaviour which they thought should disqualify miners for a pardon. These included:

  • Violent behaviour (including that which caused life-changing injuries)
  • Serious assaults (respondents’ views about the nature of serious assaults varied, but in general they saw serious assaults as those which resulted in injury)
  • Assault of a police officer
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Endangerment of life
  • Shouting threats of violence / threatening people in their homes
  • Any conviction on indictment.

5.49 There was disagreement about whether offences relating to the damage of property should be a disqualifying criterion.

5.50 Some respondents in this group expressed caveats to the general view that the seriousness of the offences should be a factor in determining eligibility for a pardon. Within this group, there were some who thought such cases should be considered on an individual basis (i.e. case by case); others suggested that extenuating circumstances should also be taken into account – for example, the extent of provocation and the reliability of the evidence used to convict an individual.

‘These should be looked at on an individual basis, with all evidence to be scrutinised, especially the unsafe police statements that could be easily dismissed but have inexcusably not [been]. (Individual respondent)

‘The severity of offences should be considered in all circumstances. Equally the degree of provocation must be taken into account. Whilst I would hesitate to use the words ‘police brutality,’ which have been used, the response was perhaps describable as ‘robust’ which perhaps [was] a bit over the top…. (Individual respondent)

5.51 Occasionally, there was a view that these types of ‘exceptional’ cases should be judged by a court.

The seriousness of the offences committed before or after the strike is not relevant

5.52 One group of respondents who answered ‘no’ at Question 8 understood the question as asking about previous or subsequent convictions for non-strike-related offences. This group of respondents argued that the seriousness of these previous or subsequent offences was not a relevant issue and should not disqualify a miner from being given a pardon for any strike-related offences. Some also made the point that any such convictions will have been punished at the time and would now be spent.

‘Whether a person was convicted before or after of something else should have no bearing on their pardon for strike related convictions.’ (Individual respondent)

‘He’ll have been punished appropriately if he had previous or subsequent convictions and, as such, they have no bearing on any conviction relating to the strike. (Individual respondent)

5.53 Some respondents argued that evidence presented in the report of the independent review of the 1984/85 miners’ strike had not indicated that strike-related convictions were associated either with a previous or a subsequent history of offending. The implication of this point is that these issues were unrelated and should not be taken into account for the purposes of determining eligibility for a pardon.

‘There is nothing within the final report of the independent review to suggest that the convictions of miners arrested during the miners [strike] were influenced by any prior history of criminal convictions…. Equally and on the other hand, there is no evidence to suggest that miners arrested during the strike were subsequently convicted of non-strike-related matters because of their prior criminal convictions incurred during the strike.’ (Organisational respondents – one (1) legal and one (1) trade union related body)

Convictions for strike-related activities were ‘unsafe’, based on unreliable evidence

5.54 A second group of respondents – most of whom answered ‘no’ at Question 8 –understood the question as asking about offending during the strike. These respondents repeatedly argued that convictions during the strike were ‘unsafe’ – that is, they were based on unreliable evidence and a judicial process that was compromised by a politically-influenced prosecution policy.

‘Consequently, the demonstrably politicised nature of the prosecution policy during the strike fundamentally compromised the integrity of the judicial process. Therefore, the severity of alleged offences should not form part of the qualifying criteria because a pardon which only applied to convictions received for minor offences would automatically exclude those convicted of anything more serious. yet we know that prosecutions for some of the most serious charges were evidentially baseless and vindictive.’ (Individual respondent)

‘My [answer] is NO for the majority of convictions were politically motived. Justice was watered down for the miners.’ (Individual respondent)

Strike-related offences were largely minor in nature

5.55 A third group of respondents who answered ‘no’ at Question 8 also understood the question as asking about offending during the strike. However, unlike the group above, this group argued that few offences committed during the strike could be regarded as ‘serious’. These respondents suggested that most offences committed during the miners’ strike would be unlikely to lead to a criminal prosecution today.

‘The overwhelming number of convictions in Scotland were for minor offences that today would not attract a criminal record and those involved would be directed to undertake other activities to avoid prosecution. There are very few, if any, cases that would be described as severe.’ (Campaign response)

Strike-related offences were often the result of severe provocation

5.56 Finally, the fourth main view in the comments at Question 8 was that any ‘serious’ offences committed during the strike were often the result of severe provocation. This view was mainly expressed by respondents who answered ‘no’ at Question 8. Those who expressed this view did not specifically state that some miners may have committed serious offences during the strike, but rather they suggested that if such serious offences had been committed, then they should be seen within the wider context of the strike and the policing of the strike.

‘Miners and others were forced into situations that was government orchestrated, which wouldn’t be tolerated today and was illegal then.’ (Individual respondent)

‘The state sponsored campaign against the miners was extreme. The campaign to save jobs and their industry was vital to the country. Their response to overwhelming force must be seen in this context. Severity of offending does not come into it when properly contextualised.’ (Individual respondent)


Contact

Email: minersstrikepardon@gov.scot