FRESH Hillsborough inquests are less likely to be held in South Yorkshire after a key change in the law today.
Government justice ministers have changed the Coroners’ Act so that there will no longer be a restriction on where their inquests can be heard.
Hillsborough campaigners said they were delighted at the news and that it improved the likelihood that the inquiries into the deaths of their loved ones would not have to take place close to Sheffield, the scene of the disaster.
They said many families and witnesses would not be able to cope with the trauma of having to return to the city. Some of them have never been back to the city since the tragic events of April 15, 1989, in which 96 Liverpool FC fans perished.
The change to the law means that families will now be able to make representations to the courts about where the inquests should be held.
However, some campaigners do not support the idea of holding them in Liverpool, but prefer somewhere else within the North West.
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 move comes within months of a decision by the High Court, on the request of Attorney General Dominic Grieve, to overturn the original verdicts.
Sheila Coleman, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, said she expected a coroner to preside over the inquests to be named imminently, if not today.
But Mrs Coleman added that her group would prefer the inquests not to be held in Liverpool, but somewhere such as Chester or Manchester which would be easily accessible for the families.
She added: “We are confident that when all the facts emerge, a reasonable jury will deliver the correct verdicts.
“We don’t want anything to take away from that through anyone being able to infer bias.”
Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said the announcement was welcome, adding: “I always thought they would never allow them to be held in Sheffield. The families would have been against it.
“Even though I had to go back for the original inquests, I never wanted to have to.
“This is another milestone reached.”
Walton MP Steve Rotheram said: “The main thing is that at last there can be inquests free from geographical constraints.
“It’s now for everyone to start looking at where they should take place.”