Coroner Mary Hassell ordered to pay costs to those who challenged her burial policy

The 'cab rank' rule forbade any death from being prioritised, outraging Jews and Muslims


A London coroner whose “unlawful, irrational and discriminatory” burial policy outraged Muslims and Jews has been ordered to pay costs of those who won a legal case against it.

Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for Inner North London, used the "cab rank" rule, refusing to prioritise any death on the grounds of the religion of the deceased or their family.

Her jurisdiction covers the Camden, Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets boroughs, which are home to some of the UK’s largest Jewish and Muslim communities. Religious Jews and Muslims are required to bury the deceased as soon as possible.

After a challenge by the Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS) and Ita Cymerman, the High Court ruled against the coroner in April, saying that her policy was “incapable of rational justification”.

On Monday, Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Whipple ordered Ms Hassell to pay the costs of AYBS and Mrs Cymerman, who were represented by Asserson Law Offices.

She must pay £68,000 within 21 days while the actual costs are calculated. The JC understands these will be significantly higher.

Mrs Cymerman, also known as Ita Symons, is the director of Schonfeld Square in Hackney, a care home for strictly Orthodox elderly people.

Ms Hassell informed AYBS of her burial policy last October. She refused to change it, despite a number of requests for her to do so.

In March, Judge Mark Lucraft, the chief coroner of England and Wales, also criticised Ms Hassell's conduct, branding it "unlawful".

The costs Ms Hassell was ordered to pay will be covered by Camden Council, the judgment said.

Councillor Abdul Hai, the council’s cabinet member for cohesion, said he was "outraged" that public funds will be used to pay for the legal costs related to a policy "that many residents in Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets fundamentally disagreed with".

He added: "This is the third time our residents have had to foot the bill and I will be writing to the Lord Chancellor to ask for things to change as well as these costs to be reimbursed in full.”

Marie van der Zyl, the President of the Board of Deputies, welcomed the decision to make Ms Hassell pay costs, pointing out that North London residents have spent “more than £250,000 in legal fees” challenging the policy.

Mrs van der Zyl added: “At a time of tight budgets across local government, residents deserve a senior coroner they can rely on not to needlessly waste taxpayer’s money and to treat all residents fairly.”

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