THE new inquest into the deaths of 96 football fans at the Hillsborough disaster could be held anywhere in England and Wales following a change in the law.
Coroners are now no longer restricted to holding inquests within their own districts, meaning the forthcoming Hillsborough inquiry no longer needs to be held in Sheffield where the original hearing was held.
Relatives of the 96 victims have spoken out against the fresh inquest into the deaths being held in Sheffield after the findings of the original was overturned.
A change to the Coroners Act 1988 means inquests can be held at different locations in England and Wales, if it is in the best interest of bereaved relatives and witnesses.
Hillsborough Family Support Group chairman Trevor Hicks said the venue of the new Hillsborough inquest was ‘important’ to relatives of the victims and has been discussed extensively.
Mr Hicks, who lost his two daughters - 19-year-old Sarah and 15-year-old Victoria - in the disaster, said: “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.
“At the end of the day, the final influence lies with the coroner. We would expect to be consulted. It’s important to the bereaved families.”
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.”
The fresh inquest into the Hillsborough disaster was ordered when a panel of three High Court judges, headed by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, quashed the original accidental death verdicts.
The Liverpool supporters died at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium on April 15, 1989, where their team wet Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.
Steve Rotheram, Labour MP for Liverpool Walton, said: “The 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.
“It is vital that the process for new inquests proceeds without any unnecessary delays and a judge be appointed, a location determined and time frame established, so that the families can move closer to finally understanding the actual cause of the deaths of their lost loved ones at Hillsborough.”