1. ITV Report

Coroner outlines details of new Hillsborough inquests

Lord Justice Goldring promises new Hillsborough inquests will be transparent Photo: Press Association

The coroner presiding over the new Hillsborough inquests today promised families of the 96 victims his hearings would try to expose "any culpable or discreditable conduct".

Lord Justice Goldring, making his opening statement at a pre-inquest hearing, reassured families the proceedings would be transparent.

About 40 families travelled from Liverpool to London's Principal Registry of the Family Division.

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.

"However, it should not be forgotten that an inquest is a fact-finding investigation.

"It is not a method of apportioning guilt.

"There are no parties, no indictment, no prosecution and no defence.

"In other words, an inquest is not a trial but an inquiry to establish facts."

Last December verdicts of accidental death from the original inquest from March 1991 were quashed.

The action was taken after the Hillsborough Independent Panel studied thousands of documents and reported there had been a huge cover up of what happened at Hillsborough and its aftermath.

When the verdicts were quashed, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge applauded the families for their tireless fight for the truth.

Today, Lord Justice Goldring echoed his comments, emphasising the continuing personal tragedy for all families.

He said: "For all that has been, or will be, said and written concerning the disaster, nothing will remove or lessen the private individual grief for those intimately concerned."

But the judge warned everyone involved that the inquest was a massive task.

"The enormity of that task and the work involved must not be underestimated," he said.

"The very fact that these inquests have been preceded by a raft of earlier investigative processes means that there is a very large volume of documents, hundreds of thousands, which require collation and organisation in a form suitable for disclosure."

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.

Families of the victims are hoping today's hearing will set a date and location for the new inquest, but that is not guaranteed.

Various counsel for the interested parties have numerous submissions to make and it is possible the judge will retire and announce the date and location at a later date.

Relatives and friends are split into two groups: the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC).

The HFSG wants the full hearing held in London but the HJC would prefer it to be held in the North West.

Turning to the issue of timing and location, Lord Justice Goldring said that, after reading various submissions, the choice of venue has come down to either "the North West or London".

Christina Lambert QC, lead counsel to the Hillsborough inquests, said suggested venues range from "Newcastle to London and the North West".

She added: "There's no location that you determine that is going to suit everyone."

Discussing the timing of the inquests, Ms Lambert said holding them in 2015 or 2016 was "simply not acceptable".

She said it had been suggested that the inquests should not be held until the end of separate investigations by the IPCC and a criminal inquiry led by Jon Stoddart, the former Chief Constable of Durham.

Ms Lambert went on: "We would invite you to bear in mind that there's strong public interest in these inquests commencing as soon as possible.

"You will be acutely conscious that the events under scrutiny occurred 24 years ago."

Ms Lambert said there was no rule of law that stated an inquest must be held after a criminal investigation.

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