The Government's most senior law officer has urged the High Court to quash the original accidental death inquest verdicts returned after 96 Liverpool football fans died in the crush at Hillsborough 23 years ago.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve made his application to the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge and two other judges in a packed London courtroom.

Many families of victims of the 1989 tragedy, who have campaigned to have the verdicts overturned, have travelled to the Royal Courts of Justice in central London. Others are watching the proceedings in a courtroom in Liverpool via video-link. The Liverpool supporters died at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium on April 15 1989, where their team were to meet Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.

Mr Grieve's legal move comes after a damning report into the disaster laid bare a cover-up which attempted to shift the blame for the tragedy on to its victims.

The court heard at the start of the hearing that the application was not opposed. Mr Grieve said that "nevertheless", "given the intense public interest" in the case, it was right - with the court's permission - that he set out the basis for the application he was making.

More than 40 relatives of the 96 victims arrived at the Royal Courts of Justice by coach to attend the hearing. At least six MPs were also present.

Mr Grieve said the "horrific" events at the stadium were well known, and said that in the months and years that followed, the events that led to the tragedy "have been the subject of numerous investigations and inquiries". Mr Grieve said the application was being made as a consequence of the Hillsborough Panel's report published on September 12 this year. He described it as a "remarkable" document.

Mr Grieve said the report was the product of a review of more than 450,000 pages of documentation from 84 organisations and individuals, in addition to audio-visual material.

He said that in the immediate weeks following publication he carefully studied the findings of the Hillsborough Panel with a view to "whether it was right" to exercise his powers under Section 13 of the Coroners Act.

The application came as the Home Secretary announced there would be a new police investigation into the disaster, lead by former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart, which will focus specifically on the 96 deaths.