HILLSBOROUGH families expressed “huge relief” that the government will pay for legal representation for the new inquests into the deaths of their loved ones.
It followed Wednesday’s historic decision by the High Court to quash the accidental death verdicts returned after the 1989 disaster.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Igor Judge, said the new evidence unearthed by the Hillsborough Independent Panel meant it had been “inevitable” that the inquests should be quashed and new ones ordered.
He is now considering which senior judge to appoint to oversee the new inquests. Lord Judge’s decision is likely to be announced early in the new year.
Yesterday Commons Leader Andrew Lansley told MPs, in response to a question from Wallasey MP Angela Eagle: “The Government will provide funding for the legal representation of the bereaved Hillsborough families at the fresh inquests.”
Jenni Hicks is vice chair of Hillsborough Family Support Group and lost teenage daughters Victoria and Sarah in the disaster.
She said: “It’s brilliant news. Things just get better and better.
“This is the way of the government saying ‘we got it wrong’. It’s a huge relief we won’t have to worry about the money side of things now.
“At the last inquests in 1991 the legal representation was so unequal.”
She said the families’ one barrister was up against 12 others.
Sheila Coleman of Hillsborough Justice Campaign said: “The families were able to pay for the first inquests because of the generosity of the public in giving to the Hillsborough disaster fund.
“If the government is committed to putting right the wrong it is only right that it foots the bill.
“This takes tremendous pressure off families and also takes pressure off the cash- strapped generous public that has continued helping in fundraising for the families.”
Formally the cases have to be referred back to the coroners in Yorkshire.
South Yorkshire would deal with 95 inquests, while West Yorkshire which ruled over the death of Tony Bland (whose life support machine was switched off in 1993) will be resent his case.
In South Yorkshire the case is being sent to Doncaster.
The coroners will then have the power to appoint an assistant deputy coroner who can be a high court judge. They have already asked the Ministry of Justice to appoint a senior judge to run the new inquests.