Hillsborough inquest to take place in the north-west

The verdict of the original inquest, completed in 1991, was quashed in December 2012. Photo: PA

The inquests into the deaths of 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster will take place in the north-west, a coroner announced today.

Lord Justice Goldring made the decision after hearing conflicting arguments at a preliminary hearing last week in support of holding the hearing in either the north-west or London.

In a written direction, the judge 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."

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.

A split emerged between two separate campaign groups last week, 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.

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.

Margaret Aspinall, HFSG chairwoman, said: "To be honest, I personally don't mind where it is held. I'm quite happy wherever it is held as long as everything goes accordingly and we get the right verdicts on the death certificates."

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, recently appointed as coroner to the fresh inquests, last week said the new inquests would be held in early 2014.

Explaining why he has chosen to hold the inquests in the north-west, the judge said: "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."

He went on: "I can not see how anyone with work or caring responsibilities can spend long periods away from home in a hotel in London."

Lord Justice Goldring said for those who are older or unwell, travelling to London would not be comfortable or easy.

He added: "Video-links are second best."

Michael Mansfield QC, who represents the 71 HFSG families, argued that animosity and rivalry among football clubs in the north-west could impact proceedings, while London would be best suited to accommodate the international interest.

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."