Hillsborough families welcome ruling that inquests will not have to be held in South Yorkshire
Ministers announced changes to the law governing coroners’ courts will mean hearings can now be held in any part of the country
The new Hillsborough inquests will not have to be held in South Yorkshire after a new emergency law was yesterday rushed through Parliament.
The families of the 96 Liverpool fans killed at the 1989 football disaster have hailed the move as a huge step in the fight for justice.
Yesterday, ministers announced key changes to the law governing coroners’ courts which will mean hearings can now be held in any part of the country, regardless of where the death happened.
The new Bill was pushed through ahead of schedule so the newly-imposed inquests for the Hillsborough victims can be relocated.
Relatives of those who died welcomed the news and said they hoped the inquests would now be hosted either in London or the northwest of England.
It means the hearings, which were pencilled in to take place in Doncaster or Sheffield, where the 23-year-old football tragedy happened, are almost certain to be switched to a different venue.
Jenni Hicks, who lost her two daughters, Sarah, 19, and Victoria, 15, at Hillsborough, told the Mirror: “This has only got to be good news for us.
“Your loved ones don’t always die on your doorstep.
“We’re so glad we don’t have to make that journey all the way to Sheffield again. That memory still lives with us.”
Her ex-husband Trevor Hicks added: “We have been vociferously vocal in that we didn’t want the inquest to be held in Sheffield.
“It’s nothing against Sheffield, per se. But it didn’t serve us well on the last occasion.”
Families have stressed they do not want the new inquests to be held in Liverpool as they are keen to avoid any future suggestion any outcome could be biased towards their interests.
Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire or London have all been suggested as possible locations.
New coronal laws are still set to be introduced this summer, but such is the groundswell of support behind the Hillsborough families, the government decided to push through this part of the new legislation ahead of schedule.
Labour and Liverpool MP Steve Rotheram said: “This welcome announcement will spare the families of the 96 the ordeal of having to return to South Yorkshire and relive the horror of the traumatic 1989 inquests.
“In bringing this announcement forward from June, it is further evidence that the families’ dignified campaign for almost 24 years is now finally forcing the wheels of justice for the 96 to slowly turn.
“For the first time in over two decades, momentum is on the side of the families.”
A judge is soon to be appointed for the landmark Hillsborough hearings after the Lord Chief Justice indicated he was keen for a figure higher than a coroner to take charge of proceedings.
Justice Minister Helen Grant said: “The anguish of losing a loved one in circumstances that require an inquest is unimaginably heartbreaking for any family.
“We want to ensure inquests can happen without unnecessary delays so families can find closure.
"That is why I am granting coroners the power to move inquests – at their discretion - to the most suitable location.
"This will bring about greater flexibility, more timely hearings and some relief to families.”
Hillsborough families have also welcomed the announcement the police watchdog is being further strengthened to investigate corrupt officers.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) would be expanded to deal with all serious complaints against the police.
Police will also be subject to more stringent regulations, which are intended to improve transparency and root out corruption.
Disciplinary hearings against officers who resign or retire will be pursued until their conclusion - with anyone found guilty of misconduct added to a new national “struck off list”.
Last year the IPCC was given extra powers to force officers to attend interviews and to investigate matters already scrutinised by its predecessor organisation, to help in its huge probe into the Hillsborough cover-up.
Sheila Coleman, of Hillsborough Justice Campaign, said: “People should take note that the announcement made by Theresa May in respect of corrupt police and new rules to make them more accountable is as a direct result of ordinary decent people fighting for the truth.
“It shows that you can make a difference through persistence. We would expect the IPCC to use the increased powers and resources to facilitate justice and accountability.”
Filed under: Euro 2012
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