English Premiership

Hillsborough inquest date set

2013-06-05 20:01
Hillsborough disaster (File)
London - The fresh inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters crushed in the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster will begin by March 31 next year, the coroner conducting the hearings ruled Wednesday.

Lord Justice John Goldring also ruled that they will be held before a jury.

The families of the victims, who have fought a long campaign for justice, hope the inquests will shed more light on whether more lives could have been saved in the disaster in the Hillsborough stadium 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 standing terrace before an FA Cup semi-final.

The move towards fresh hearings follows 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 original inquests delivered verdicts of accidental death.

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

Inquests normally take place after any criminal investigations -- plus any possible proceedings and subsequent appeals -- have been completed.

However, Goldring has decided not to wait.

At Wednesday's pre-inquest hearing in London, he was told that the new police investigation was planning to complete its interviews by December, with any further interviews completed by the end of March.

Christina Lambert, the chief lawyer driving the inquest process, told Goldring that under the law a jury must be summoned in cases where death has occurred in police custody or where a police officer was executing his duty.

Goldring also agreed with her that the inquests should have a broad scope.

Lambert said this should include stadium design, preparation for the match, planning by police and other organisations, movement and distribution of fans, overcrowding at the turnstiles -- and the police response.

That should include the critical decision to open a gate, allowing fans to surge in.

The inquests will be held in northwest England at a location yet to be determined, though not in Liverpool itself. The original inquests were held in Sheffield.

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.

Read more on:    hillsborough disaster  |  soccer
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