Justice for the families of the 96 football fans who died at Hillsborough moved a step closer as it was announced that the new inquests will be held in the North-west.
Chester, Crewe, Preston and Warrington are among the towns being considered. Liverpool and Manchester have been ruled out due to fears of bias.
The decision followed disagreement among the relatives, with some arguing that inquests in London would attract more national attention.
“I have concluded that it would be right for the inquests to be held in the North-west. It would not be helpful further to identify a location at this stage,” said Lord Justice Goldring, the coroner to the new inquests, in a ruling today.
“I have no doubt that a location can be found in the North-west without the risk of actual or perceived prejudice.”
The judge is keen to ensure the inquests are within easy travelling distance from Liverpool – something that ruled out the capital. “I cannot see how anyone with work or caring responsibilities can spend long periods away from home in a hotel in London.”
Kenny Derbyshire, chair of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, which had called for inquests in the North-west, welcomed the news last night: “It’s a very good decision. We’re made up with it. The families didn’t want to have to move down to London, so this is for the families.”
At last week’s preliminary hearing, the 71 families belonging to the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) had argued the inquests should be held in London – both for reasons of profile and to avoid any possible football-related bias.
Reacting to the news, Margaret Aspinall, HFSG chair, said the most important thing is that the families get “a thorough and proper inquest on the 96 and, hopefully, we get the right verdict”.
The new inquests are set to be held next year, although Lord Justice Goldring refused to set January 2014 as a date.