Hillsborough disaster families attend court in London

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FAMILIES of the 96 Hillsborough disaster victims have arrived at court for a hearing over when and where new inquests into the deaths are to be held and what form they will take.

Relatives of those who died during Britain’s worst sporting disaster at Sheffield’s Hillsborough stadium on April 15, 1989 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.

Barry Devonside, 66, a member of the HJC and whose son Christopher, 18, died at Hillsborough, said: “Hopefully, it won’t be held in London as this would cause numerous problems for families, witnesses and other interested parties.

“I know the HFSG want it in London but there are many families who are not represented by them.

“We would prefer Manchester, Preston or Chester because families will be able to travel in the North West and we don’t think it’s possible for a Liverpool jury to preside over the inquest.

“I am quite optimistic the coroner Lord Justice Goldring will make the pronouncement today but the passage of time has not been on our side.

“We have to be patient as we have been for the last 24 years.

“We don’t have a bottomless bucket of funds to keep travelling to London.”

The hearing comes on the day that the Independent Police Complaints Commission gave an update on how its own investigation into the aftermath of the disaster is progressing.

It is looking at whether any criminal or misconduct proceedings need to be launched.

IPCC Deputy Chairman, Deborah Glass, said: “I explained at the time that this was the largest investigation ever undertaken by the IPCC – and the biggest criminal and misconduct investigation ever conducted into the police in England and Wales.

I said that it would be conducted in phases with the first, focusing on laying the foundations, likely to take several months. That foundation work is almost complete and we are now moving fully into the criminal and misconduct investigation phase.

“We have made great progress in the recovery of documentation, securing of resources including new premises, development of terms of reference and investigation plans.

“We have been developing our lines of enquiry alongside the review of the documentation and some police officers have now been interviewed.

“But this a huge and complex investigation which must be closely co-ordinated with the investigation into the deaths being led by Jon Stoddart, as well as the needs of the inquests.

“ The coroner, Lord Justice Goldring, will hold the first pre-inquest hearing today and we have made it clear that we will be fully supportive of any decisions he makes on the procedure to be adopted at these inquests, including their timing.

“We have said that our investigation will take two years but we have not said that the inquests should be delayed as a result, and we will as necessary prioritise our investigative work to support the inquests. We will be reviewing our investigation plan after the hearing.

“I understand that our timescale may cause frustration. However in our correspondence and discussions to date with the families and survivors we have sought to explain the complexity of this investigation and that we and all the other organisations involved want to ensure the mistakes that have been made by inquiries into the disaster in the past are not repeated.”