Ian Herbert: Out of the darkness springs hope eternal for families ruined by Hillsborough disaster

The last inquest was scarred by degenerating into a private battle

There have been very few new dawns for the Hillsborough families and nearly all of them false, but amid the latest tremors to beset their beloved football team came fragile cause for hope.

The court hearing convened to establish the parameters for the restaged inquests into the 96 victims of British sport's worst disaster was held in a building usually occupied by those in the midst of family anguish – the Principal Registry of the Family Division – which was appropriate. A girl who was 14 when her mother was killed at Sheffield Wednesday's ground did not think she would be middle-aged before sitting here, in the room where they would begin to put the truth straight. One of the QCs, Pete Weatherby, who argued what seemed to be an eminently sensible case about the North-West – and not London – being the best location for the inquests, described how two of those family members he had met and agreed to represent had died before this day arrived.

Typically of the past 24 years, Hillsborough was in the shadows of the news agenda – the Godolphin doping case was unfolding a few doors up on London's High Holborn and most of the cameras had amassed there. But the day the families had waited for did not let them down. When pre-inquest hearings were held first time around, on March 6 1990, it was a few suited men in a room, including the coroner Stefan Popper and the assistant chief constable of the West Midlands police force, which investigated its South Yorkshire's counterparts. They made abysmal plans, one detail of which tells the story. Families were asked to attend inquests hearings in the same Sheffield Medico-Legal centre where they had viewed the bodies of their loved ones, in the days after the disaster.

The rough edges of these past 24 years have bound families together and, perhaps naturally enough, turned some against others. The divisions were still deeply evident, even on this sunny day they'd waited for. The Hillsborough Family Support Group's members (71 of the 96 families) have voted by a strong majority at two Liverpool meetings since last December for London inquests – away from jurors who might harbour anti-Liverpool prejudice and in a place so neutral that no police officer could allege the outcome is prejudiced. The Hillsborough Justice Campaign don't like the idea of making that kind of journey. There will be financial assistance for travel and accommodation for families, though possibly not supporters. The trauma of raking back through tragedy while 230 miles from home is too much, their QC's argument ran.

That issue is setting group against group and the coroner, Lord Justice Goldring, was wise to hold off his judgement until next week, when a written verdict can be delivered with cold logic. But while his decision cannot possibly satisfy everyone, the first signs are that this judge is a strong, decisive and empathetic leader. He was careful to address the families – about 40 of them were in court – and to speak directly to those listening in by video link from Liverpool. He displayed a sense of urgency, dismissing in the course of five minutes a Police Federation notion that the inquests might be delayed for at least three years, possibly six, until criminal proceedings are concluded.

He cited the case of Anne Williams, mother of Hillsborough victim Kevin, who died last week. "Her death is a powerful reminder that there is an urgency attaching to the commencement of the inquest hearings, as well as a need for that investigation to be as full as possible," he said.

He will require a lot more than empathy, and sometimes the judgement of Solomon. Probity and fairness must be afforded to other parties, too. The last inquest "was scarred by degenerating into a private battle," he said. "This will not happen in the new inquests." This felt like a good day for justice.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn