Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Row over Hillsborough inquest venue

Lord Justice Goldring who has been appointed the Coroner for the new Hillsborough inquest

Families of the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster must wait to learn the location of fresh inquests into their relatives' deaths after presenting their conflicting cases at a hearing.

A split emerged between two separate campaign groups at a pre-inquest hearing in London, with one side pushing for the inquiry to be held in the capital and the other calling for it to take place in the North West.

Tempers flared when a barrister representing the Police Federation of England and Wales requested that the hearing was delayed until two separate investigations had ended, sparking cries of "outrageous" and prompting one woman to run from the court.

The coroner, Lord Justice Goldring, told around 50 families that the new inquest into the 1989 tragedy would be held in "early 2014" at a venue to be confirmed next week. Some 71 families from the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) want the hearing to be held in London, while a smaller group from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) asked for it to take place in the North West outside of Liverpool or Manchester.

After the hearing, Barry Devonside, 66, an HJC member, whose son Christopher, 18, died at Hillsborough, said: "The location is a difficult issue." He added: "Without me giving an unbalanced view, I spent 80 days in Sheffield at the first inquest and it's very, very difficult. Travelling to the capital every day for up to nine months could be horrendous."

But Jackie Gilhooley, whose son, Jon-Paul, was Hillsborough's youngest victim at only 10 years old, said: "It doesn't bother me coming down to London, it is not a problem for me." Mrs Gilhooley, 59, a support worker for people with special needs, whose son was England football captain Steven Gerrard's cousin, added: "I am pleased that it is sort of the beginning of the end."

Britain's worst sporting disaster unfolded at Sheffield's Hillsborough stadium on April 15 1989 during Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest as thousands of fans were crushed in the ground's Leppings Lane terrace.

Last December, verdicts of accidental death from the original inquest in March 1991 were quashed. The action was taken 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.

Lord Justice Goldring promised the victims' families that his hearings would try to expose "any culpable or discreditable conduct". He told them: "The purpose of these inquests is to examine fully and fairly how each of these victims of this terrible disaster lost his or her life. The inquests will seek to ensure so far as possible that the full facts are brought to light, that any culpable or discreditable conduct is exposed and brought to public notice."

Lawyers for the inquest, families, Crown Prosecution Service and IPCC agreed that the inquests should be held as soon as possible. But Paul Greaney QC, for the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said they should not start until any possible criminal proceedings, and possible appeals, have finished. But the coroner shortly shot his request down. Lord Justice Goldring said: "The inquests will not await the outcome of the investigations."

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