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
6. Consequences of conviction (Q9 to Q11)

6. Consequences of conviction (Q9 to Q11)

6.1 The independent review group had suggested that miners whose convictions led to imprisonment should not receive a pardon. The Scottish Government wished to invite views on this issue. Questions 9 and 10 of the consultation asked whether the outcome of the conviction (i.e., whether a non-custodial or custodial sentence was imposed) should be a relevant consideration in determining eligibility to receive a pardon.

6.2 Question 9: Do you agree that miners whose conviction relating to the Strike resulted in a non-custodial sentence (such as a fine or a community service order), should be pardoned? [Yes / No / Don’t know/No opinion]

6.3 Please explain your answer.

6.4 Question 10: Do you think that miners whose conviction relating to the Strike resulted in imprisonment should be pardoned? [Yes / No / Don’t know/No opinion]

6.5 Please explain your answer.

6.6 Question 11: Thinking about the fact that some miners were dismissed by the National Coal Board, as a result of a conviction relating to the Strike, and others were not, which of the following statements most closely matches your view? (Please select one option only.) [All miners who meet the criteria should be pardoned, regardless of whether or not they were dismissed by the National Coal Board. / Only miners who meet the criteria AND were dismissed by the National Coal Board should be pardoned. / Neither of the above. / Don’t know/No opinion]

6.7 Please explain your answer.The consultation paper also noted that some miners lost their jobs as a result of a conviction relating to the strike, whilst others did not. The independent review had not included loss of employment as a consideration in its suggested criteria for receiving a pardon. However, the Scottish Government wanted to hear views on this issue. Question 11 asked respondents if they thought that loss of employment should be considered as a relevant criterion in determining eligibility for a pardon.

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

6.9 As with the questions discussed in the previous chapter of this report, a relatively large proportion of respondents did not fully engage with Questions 9 to 11 in their comments. In relation to all these questions, between a quarter and a third 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 ‘it was industrial action’ or (alternatively) that ‘they broke the law and should pay the price’.

Convictions resulting in non-custodial sentences (Q9)

6.10 Question 9 asked respondents if they agreed that a miner whose strike-related conviction had resulted in a non-custodial sentence should receive a pardon. Table 6.1 shows that the vast majority of respondents (88%) agreed with this proposal and a small minority (11%) disagreed. There was a similar pattern of response among individuals and organisations.

Table 6.1: Q9 – Do you agree that miners whose conviction relating to the Strike resulted in a non-custodial sentence (such as a fine or a community service order), should be pardoned?
Respondent type Yes No Don’t know / No opinion Total
Individuals 256 (88%) 31 (11%) 3 (1%) 290 (100%)
Organisations 12 (92%) 1 (8%) – (0%) 13 (100%)
Total 268 (88%) 32 (11%) 3 (1%) 303 (100%)

6.11 The campaign response answered ‘yes’ to this question.

6.12 Altogether, 149 respondents (11 organisations and 138 individuals) provided further comments at Question 9. The campaign response also included comments.

Views supporting a pardon for convictions resulting in non-custodial sentences

6.13 Respondents who answered ‘yes’ at Question 9 sometimes made statements such as ‘absolutely’, or ‘without question’, without elaborating on their views. There was also a view that the ‘sentence is not relevant’. Those who expressed this view argued that miners should be pardoned ‘irrespective of the punishment imposed at the time’ or ‘regardless of the sentence imposed’. A third group simply stated that ‘all convictions related to the strike should be pardoned’, without addressing the specific issue of the sentence.

6.14 Those who provided reasons for their views often echoed points made in response to previous questions, for example:

  • That the convictions were ‘unsafe’ and ‘politically motivated’ (i.e. based on unreliable evidence or ‘trumped up charges’)
  • That the same offences committed today would have resulted in a caution, rather than a criminal record
  • That some offences were the result of provocation or (perceived) goading by the police
  • That miners had the right to fight for their livelihoods and their industry
  • That some miners were arrested for ‘just being on the picket line’
  • That such convictions will now have been spent.

6.15 Respondents in this group argued that a non-custodial sentence will have been associated with a minor offence, and so should certainly be pardoned. Some respondents suggested that most miners should never have been charged for such offences in the first place.

6.16 Some organisational respondents expressed uncertainty about the meaning of this question, as they understood that miners without custodial sentences were precisely the group the independent review had recommended be pardoned.

‘… If we are considering the question of pardoning miners convicted, then it surely follows by default that, at the very least, a non-custodial sentence would have been imposed? There is no evidence in the final report [of the independent review] that miners were convicted and given suspended sentences. All of the evidence presented to the Independent Review was that… the overwhelming majority of those convicted were served with fines.’ (Organisational respondents – one (1) legal and two (2) trade union related bodies)

Views opposing a pardon for convictions resulting in non-custodial sentences

6.17 In general, respondents who answered ‘no’ to Question 9 were opposed to the principle of a pardon for miners with convictions relating to the 1984/85 miners’ strike. Whilst some in this group acknowledged that a non-custodial sentence was likely to relate to a less serious office, they nevertheless believed that a criminal offence had been committed, and it should not be pardoned.

‘The severity of an offence is reflected by the sentence imposed. The fact that an individual was not given a custodial sentence means that the court took this into consideration but does not alter the fact that a criminal offence was committed.’ (Individual respondent)

‘No, guilty is guilty.’ (Individual respondent)

6.18 Occasionally, respondents in this group suggested that the decision to pardon should be made on a case-by-case basis and should depend on the circumstances of the crime or the seriousness of the offence. These respondents suggested that convictions for minor offences (e.g. minor damage, breach of the peace on a picket line, or an offence resulting in a ‘low fine’) could be considered for a pardon, but that if the conviction was for anything more serious (i.e. assault), then it should not be pardoned.

6.19 Other views – usually expressed by just one or two individuals answering ‘no’ – were that:

  • Miners should be required to formally appeal their convictions.
  • Sentencing during the miners’ strike was more lenient than usual (resulting in a higher than normal proportion of non-custodial sentences) because of concerns about overcrowding in prisons and ‘political considerations’ at the time.

Convictions resulting in custodial sentences (Q10)

6.20 Question 10 asked respondents if they thought miners should be pardoned if their strike-related convictions had resulted in imprisonment. Table 6.2 shows that, overall, more than three-quarters of respondents (78%) answered ‘yes’ to this question and 13% answered ‘no’. There was a similar pattern of response among individuals and organisations, although a slightly lower proportion of organisations than individuals answered ‘yes’, and a slightly higher proportion of organisations answered ‘no’.

6.21 It should also be noted that the proportion of respondents answering ‘yes’ at Question 10 (78%) is lower than the proportion answering ‘yes’ at Question 9 (88%). (See again, Table 6.1, above.)

Table 6.2: Q10 – Do you think that miners whose conviction relating to the Strike resulted in imprisonment should be pardoned?
Respondent type Yes No Don’t know / No opinion Total
Individuals 226 (79%) 36 (13%) 25 (9%) 287 (100%)
Organisations 9 (69%) 3 (23%) 1 (8%) 13 (100%)
Total 235 (78%) 39 (13%) 26 (9%) 300 (100%)

Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

6.22 The campaign response answered ‘yes’ to this question.

6.23 Altogether, 155 respondents (12 organisations and 143 individuals) provided further comments at Question 10. The campaign response also included comments.

Views supporting a pardon for convictions resulting in imprisonment

6.24 Among those who answered ‘yes’, one group of respondents simply argued that ‘all convictions relating to the strike should be pardoned’ irrespective of the sentence handed down at the time – without offering further explanation of their views.

6.25 Among those who provided further details, four main points were made.

6.26 The most common point made was that many miners were ‘targeted by the police’ and wrongfully convicted’ as a result of the political context of the time. Such views echoed comments made by respondents at previous questions, suggesting that the evidence upon which convictions were based was unreliable. Linked to this was a second point that sentencing during the miners’ strike was unnecessarily harsh. Some respondents suggested that any custodial sentences were probably not justified on the basis of the offence committed.

‘I know of miners jailed, and [they] were completely innocent, but convicted by a judge. If they had been tried by jury, the charges would have been laughed out of court.’ (Individual respondent)

‘The strike was a dispute politically driven by the Government of the day. Papers released under the 30-year rule show this. Miners who were imprisoned were collateral damage in the Government’s war against the NUM [National Union of Miners]. Those who were imprisoned were jailed because they were miners, they would not be in that position had they not been involved in the strike. They should be pardoned.’ (Campaign response)

6.27 Some respondents answering ‘yes’ at Question 10 commented that no evidence had been presented to the independent review to show that any miner in Scotland had been imprisoned because of strike-related activities. Respondents making this point suggested that there was merely some ‘anecdotal’ evidence that a small number of miners had been held on remand whilst awaiting sentencing (usually due to breach of bail conditions). Occasionally, respondents in this group suggested that a separate process should be set up to consider the cases of the ‘handful’ of miners in this situation. (The suggestion made was that a separate independent inquiry should be held, with the possibility of establishing a future Pardons Tribunal.)

6.28 Finally, a small number of respondents answering ‘yes’ at Question 10 argued that miners who had been ‘wrongfully convicted’, or ‘wrongfully imprisoned’ should not only be pardoned, but should also be compensated because of the significant adverse impact of these convictions on their employment and future life opportunities.

‘Pardon all miners and pay them all the strike pay they lost and a massive bonus. They were wrongfully convicted, wrongfully ostracized, and deserve compensation.’ (Individual respondent)

Views opposed to a pardon for convictions resulting in imprisonment

6.29 Respondents who answered ‘no’ at Question 10 generally did so because they were opposed in principle to pardoning miners convicted of offences during the miners’ strike.

6.30 A relatively small number of respondents in this group specifically referred to the issue of a sentence of imprisonment, arguing that if an individual was imprisoned then it must have been for a serious offence, and / or because they already had a criminal history. This group did not think that a pardon should be offered in these circumstances.

‘Imprisonment would indicate that the severity of the crime was too great to be pardoned, then and / or now.’ (Individual respondent)

‘There are again issues to be raised over the actual headline conviction which gave rise to the sentence of imprisonment. Was there a record prior to the conviction(s) for offences relating to conduct during the strike?’ (Organisational respondent – legal)

Convictions leading to dismissal by the National Coal Board (Q11)

6.31 Question 11 asked respondents for their views about whether the loss of their job as a result of a strike-related conviction should be considered when determining whether a miner is eligible to receive a pardon. This was a closed question, and respondents were given four options to choose from, as shown in Table 6.3 below. The findings indicate that a large majority of respondents (84% overall) thought that all miners who meet the criteria for a pardon should be pardoned, regardless of whether or not they were dismissed by the National Coal Board (NCB) (option 1). Eight (8) respondents – all individuals – thought that only miners who meet the criteria for a pardon AND who were dismissed by the NCB should be pardoned (option 2). Around one in ten respondents (11%) answered ‘neither of the above’ (option 3) in response to Question 11. The remaining respondents (five in total) answered ‘don’t know / no opinion’ (option 4).

Table 6.3: Q11 – Thinking about the fact that some miners were dismissed by the National Coal Board as a result of a conviction relating to the Strike, and others were not, which of the following statements most closely matches your view?
Respondent type Individuals Organisations Total
Option 1: All miners who meet the criteria should be pardoned, regardless of whether or not they were dismissed by the National Coal Board. 239 (84%) 12 (92%) 251 (84%)
Option 2: Only miners who meet the criteria AND were dismissed by the National Coal Board should be pardoned. 8 (3%) – (0%) 8 (3%)
Option 3: Neither of the above. 33 (12%) 1 (8%) 34 (11%)
Option 4: Don’t know/No opinion. 5 (2%) – (0%) 5 (2%)
Total 285 (100%) 13 (100%) 298 (100%)

Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

6.32 The campaign response did not directly answer the closed part of this question; however, the comments – ‘All those who were convicted during the strike should be pardoned’ – suggested that the campaign respondents agreed with the majority view on this question.

6.33 Among those who submitted substantive responses to the consultation, 131 respondents (11 organisations and 120 individuals) provided further comments at Question 11. The sections below consider, first, the views of those who selected option 1 (i.e. they thought all miners who meet the criteria for a pardon should be pardoned, regardless of whether or not they were dismissed from their jobs). Then, the views of those who chose option 3 (‘neither of the above’) are discussed. Only three people who selected option 2 and one person who selected option 4 provided further comments. Comments from these respondents are discussed briefly at the end of this section.

6.34 Note that there appeared to be some confusion among respondents about what this question was asking. Occasionally, respondents explicitly said that (i) they did not understand the question, or (ii) they thought the question was open to misinterpretation. In addition, it was relatively common for comments made by respondents at Question 11 not to directly address the question of whether dismissal by the NCB should (or should not) be a criterion for a pardon – which may also suggest that respondents did not understand the question. The comments of some respondents appeared to suggest that they thought the question was asking about the justification (or not) of actions taken by the NCB to sack miners (both those who had been convicted, but also those who had been arrested and / or played leading roles in the strike). Some who selected option 1 affirmed the unfairness and / or lack of consistency in the way miners were dealt with by the NCB during and after the miners’ strike, whilst some who selected option 3 argued that the actions taken by the NCB may have been reasonable in the circumstances. These types of responses suggest that the figures shown in Table 6.3 above should be treated with caution.

6.35 Some respondents (as with previous questions in the consultation) simply stated that ‘all miners should receive a pardon’, or (by contrast) that ‘no pardons should be given’. It is unclear from these responses whether the individuals who made them had fully engaged with the question.

Views supporting a pardon for all miners, regardless of their dismissal by the NCB

6.36 There were three main views among respondents who selected option 1 at Question 11 (all miners who meet the criteria should be pardoned, regardless of whether or not they were dismissed by the NCB).

6.37 The most common view was that whether or not a miner was dismissed following their conviction (or arrest) was not a relevant factor in deciding whether they should receive a pardon. Respondents argued that (i) these were separate matters and (ii) the relevant issue with respect to eligibility for a pardon was whether the individual was convicted of a criminal offence.

‘The National Coal Board’s decision should have no bearing on a person being included in the pardon.’ (Individual respondent)

6.38 Second, respondents repeated points they had made at previous questions – i.e., that arrests and convictions during the miners’ strike were politically motivated and that miners were often targeted for dismissal because of their role in the strike. One individual in this group also noted that submissions to the independent review had highlighted the speed with which dismissal often followed arrest, suggesting the possibility of coordination / collusion between the NCB and the police, and contributing to the sense of injustice which miners experienced during the strike.

6.39 Third, and less often, respondents (particularly organisational respondents) commented that the independent review had not suggested that dismissal by the NCB should be a factor in determining eligibility for a pardon.

6.40 Other points made by this group (usually by one or two respondents) were that:

  • Evidence submitted to the independent review showed that the NCB in Scotland took a harder disciplinary line with strikers arrested and convicted of strike-related offices as compared with the NCB in other parts of the UK.
  • All miners should be pardoned, but those who were sacked could be given priority, given the particularly high price they (and their families) paid for their involvement in the strike.
  • The pardon should be given in relation to non-violent offences only.

6.41 Although this group saw the issues of pardon (for convictions) as separate from the actions taken by the NCB, there were nevertheless questions about whether miners who were pardoned could (or should be able to) make a claim against their former employers for unfair dismissal, and if so, whether that claim could also be made (for example, by family members) on behalf of miners who were now deceased.

‘[J]ustice must still be delivered to those miners who were sacked by the NCB Scotland Area because of their support for and participation in the Strike. Those miners sacked by the NCB in Scotland lost not just their jobs and income, but their standing in society, the loss of [a] job they loved, as well as the loss of their future potential entitlement to redundancy payments that would otherwise have been due to them because of the eventual demise of the mining industry in Scotland, but also the reduction of their pension benefits, both in terms of state retirement pension contributions and to the Mineworkers Pension Scheme.’ (Organisational respondent - trade union related body)

6.42 There were also suggestions that, in addition to the pardon offered to those with strike-related convictions, the Scottish Government should also publicly acknowledge the significant adverse impact that job losses had on mining communities.

‘Dismissal came at considerable social and economic costs. Men lost connections to their workplaces that they had taken industrial action to defend in the first place and also struggled in increasingly harsh labour markets. Blacklisting affected striking miners, with trade union activists excluded from jobs that could have used skills they developed in the industry, and some men were condemned to long-term unemployment. Given the impact of job loss, I do hope that the Scottish Government can communicate its regret for the Scottish miners who were dismissed for strike-related activities along with a pardon for all miners convicted of strike-related offences.’ (Individual respondent)

Views opposing a pardon for miners

6.43 Respondents who selected option 3 (‘Neither of the above’) in response to Question 11 were generally opposed to the principle of a pardon for miners.

6.44 A small number of respondents in this group also suggested that the NCB may have been justified in dismissing miners who had been arrested or convicted of an offence during the strike. It was also suggested that, if any of the dismissals had seemed ‘unfair’ at the time, that miners would have had recourse to an appeal system.

‘Dismissals done in response to breach of terms and conditions of employment are correct.’ (Individual respondent)

‘Dismissal by the NCB is not a court matter so a pardon would be inappropriate. Dismissal should go before an employment tribunal.’ (Individual respondent)

6.45 There was also a suggestion within this group that the issue of whether a miner was dismissed or not was irrelevant as a factor in determining eligibility for a pardon. Instead, eligibility for a pardon should be based solely on the nature and severity of the offence.

Other views

6.46 There was a small number of respondents who selected option 2 (‘only miners who meet the criteria AND were dismissed by the NCB should be pardoned’) or option 4 (‘don’t know / no opinion’) at Question 11. This group generally made similar comments to those who supported a pardon for miners regardless of whether or not they were dismissed by the NCB (i.e. those who selected option 1).


Contact

Email: minersstrikepardon@gov.scot