Football: Hillsborough inquests to be held near Liverpool

LONDON (AFP) - The fresh inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters in the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster will be held in northwest England, the coroner presiding announced on Thursday.

A group of 71 victims' families wanted the inquests to be held in London, while a smaller group asked for the hearings to be held in the north-west, close to Liverpool.

Lawyers for the larger group argued that animosity and rivalry among football clubs in the northwest could impact proceedings, with any potential jury being drawn from the local population.

"I have concluded that it would be right for the inquests to be held in the northwest. It would not be helpful further to identify a location at this stage," said Lord Justice John Goldring.

He announced last week that the inquests would be held in early 2014, but needed further time to consider a location.

The 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death in the Hillsborough football stadium disaster in Sheffield, northern England, in April 1989.

It remains the worst sporting disaster in British history.

The fatal crush was caused by huge overcrowding on a terrace before an FA Cup semi-final.

The original inquests were held in Sheffield and delivered accidental death verdicts.

In English law, inquests are held to examine sudden or unexplained deaths.

They set out to determine the place and time of death as well as how the deceased came by their death, but do not apportion blame.

In December last year, the High Court in London quashed the original Hillsborough verdicts and called for fresh inquests to be held, while police also launched a new investigation.

That move followed the publication of a damning independent report in September that concluded that 41 of those who died would have had the "potential to survive" if they had received medical treatment more quickly.

"The hearing is bound, it seems to me, to take several months," Mr Goldring said.

"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 northwest on a daily basis.

"I cannot see how anyone with work or caring responsibilities can spend long periods away from home in a hotel in London.

"I have no doubt that a location can be found in the northwest 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."

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