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May 2, 2013

Hillsborough inquests set for north-west

The inquests into the deaths of 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster will take place in the north-west of England, a coroner confirmed on Thursday.

• IPCC hits out at Bettison

Lord Justice Goldring heard opposing arguments at a preliminary hearing in support of holding the inquests in either the north-west or London last week before making his decision. The judge, however, has not announced details of an exact location as of yet.

In a written direction, he said: "I have concluded that it would be right for the inquests to be held in the north-west. It would not be helpful further to identify a location at this stage.''

Lord Justice Goldring was recently appointed as coroner to the fresh inquests, and said last week that they would be held in early 2014.

Some 71 families from the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) wanted the inquests to be held in London, while a smaller group from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign preferred somewhere in the north-west, outside of Liverpool or Manchester.

Lord Justice Goldring said of his decision to opt for the north-west: "The hearing is bound, it seems to me, to take several months. If it is held in London, those who wish to follow it in person will be away from home and living in hotels for a very long time. It is plainly not a practicable solution for someone to commute from Liverpool or the north-west on a daily basis. I cannot see how anyone with work or caring responsibilities can spend long periods away from home in a hotel in London.''

Michael Mansfield QC, who represents the 71 HFSG families, believes that the rivalry among football clubs in the north-west could have an effect on the hearings.

But Lord Justice Goldring said: "I have no doubt that a location can be found in the north-west without the risk of actual or perceived prejudice. If there is a jury, those of us with experience of them know perfectly well that with proper and clear directions they soon put behind them anything they may have read or thought and concentrate on the evidence before them.''

Last December, verdicts of accidental death from the original inquest in March 1991 were quashed after the Hillsborough Independent Panel studied thousands of documents and reported that there had been a huge cover-up of what happened at Hillsborough and its aftermath.

Information from the Press Association was used in this report

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