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Mar 23, 2013

First step set for fresh inquests

A hearing will take place in London next month to prepare the way for fresh inquests into the deaths of the 96 Liverpool fans killed in the Hillsborough disaster.

The Judicial Office, the independent body responsible for administering and representing the judiciary system in England and Wales, has confirmed that the pre-inquest hearing will take place in the capital on April 25.

Those proceedings will be a chance to outline how the inquests will run. Families of those who died in the tragedy, which occurred at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough on April 15, 1989, are expected to attend the hearing.

It is understood a video link-up to Liverpool will also be put in place.

The Judicial Office has stressed that the decision to hold the hearing in London is no indication as to where the inquests will eventually take place.

Most families are understood to be keen to favour a venue nearer to Liverpool, with Manchester, Cheshire and Lancashire all suggested as potential locations.

A Judicial Office spokesman said: "The families and other interested parties have today been sent letters informing them that a pre-inquest hearing will take place in London on April 25.

"As the letters make clear, the coroner will hear submissions on the timing and location of the inquests themselves before making any decision.

"Further details and arrangements for press and public attendance will be issued shortly."

Lord Justice John Goldring will act as coroner at the new inquests, which were made possible after the original verdicts of accidental death were quashed by England's top judge last December.

Lord Igor Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, made the decision following an application to quash the verdicts by Attorney General Dominic Grieve, the Government's top law officer.

The move towards fresh inquests was prompted by an independent report, published last September, which highlighted attempts by the emergency services to shift blame for the Hillsborough disaster on to the victims.

It also produced new medical evidence that raised major questions of the original 1991 inquests conducted by coroner Stefan Popper.

Dr Popper did not consider any evidence collected after 3.15pm on the day of the tragedy, ruling that none of the victims could have been saved after that time.

But the independent report - which also cleared fans of any blame for the disaster - established that 41 of the supporters who died might have been saved.

Campaign groups have long maintained that Dr Popper's original verdicts of accidental death prevented a proper investigation into the events at Hillsborough that day.

In making his decision to quash those inquest verdicts, Lord Judge said there had been "deliberate misinformation surrounding the disaster".