Applauding the families for their tireless fight for the truth and emphasising the personal nature of the very public tragedy many continue to endure, Lord Justice Goldring today targeted the start of next year for a new inquest into the Hillsborough disaster while families of the victims watched on in London.
"The inquests will not await the outcome of the [current] investigations," said the Lord Justice, who has been appointed coroner for the new inquests. "I don't think it would be sensible or indeed be a kindness to anyone to set an unrealistic date as to when they start. I will simply say they will start in early 2014."
Targeting early next year to begin the inquest could mean that it will start before the two new and currently ongoing investigations into the incident have reached their conclusions, but the Lord Justice believed that with the wealth of new evidence brought to light over the past year, waiting for their official conclusions was not necessary.
"As far as the venue is concerned I want to think about it," he added, "I will hand down my decision next week," referring to a major point of contention over whether any new inquest would be held in London or the North West of the country—with both Liverpool and Manchester possibilities.
"The inquests will seek to ensure so far as possible that the full facts are brought to light, that any culpable or discreditable conduct is exposed and brought to public notice. However, it should not be forgotten that an inquest is a fact-finding investigation. It is not a method of apportioning guilt.
"There are no parties, no indictment, no prosecution and no defence. In other words, an inquest is not a trial but an inquiry to establish facts."
The outcome of the new inquest, though, could set the stage for trials if it points to members of the South Yorkshire Police or Thatcher government as culpable for the official failures leading up to, during, and in the immediate aftermath of the disaster or implicates them in the attempts to shift blame to Liverpool supporters that followed.