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Final hearing announced for judicial review application into controversial coroner's policy

Lord Justice Singh: final hearing will take place next month

    Mary Hassell's St Pancras Coroner's Court covers Camden, Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets

    A judge has ordered that a judicial review into the conduct of Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for Inner North London, should be heard as quickly as possible, with a final hearing set to take place next month.

    Lord Justice Singh ruled on Thursday that the judicial review should go before a Divisional Court, meaning that two judges, including at least one Court of Appeal judge, should preside.

    He also directed that the final hearing into the application should take place over the 27 and 28 of March, with an estimated time of a day and a half for the hearing.

    The judicial review had been brought by the legal representatives of the Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS), after Ms Hassell, the senior coroner for an area covering the London boroughs of Hackney, Camden, Tower Hamlets and Islington, refused to respect the Jewish and Muslim religious requirement for quick burial.

    Ms Hassell told members of the Jewish community that “no death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family”.

    Last week the JC reported that the judicial review had been granted by Mr Justice Edward James Holman, with what was described as “unusual speed”.

    Mr Justice Holman had ordered that a directions hearing take place in the near future to determine a date for the final hearing, but Lord Justice Singh dispensed with the prior hearing in order to hasten the process.

    Rabbi Asher Gratt of the AYBS said: “We are grateful to the court for recognising the pressing need for this judicial review application to be heard as soon as practicable and for taking appropriate steps. Every day that coroner Hassell maintains her decision she increases the anguish and suffering caused to members of the Jewish and Muslim communities.”

    On Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May supported calls for coroners to respect individual religious beliefs. Responding to Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chisti during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, she said: “It is important that we take into account specific requirements of someone’s faith, especially when they’ve lost a loved one and they are grieving.”

    She added that David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, would be “happy” to meet Mr Chisti to discuss the issue further.

    Mrs May confirmed the Ministry of Justice would discuss the case with the Chief Coroner.

    Earlier today, the London Assembly unanimously approved a motion by by Andrew Dismore, Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, to “write to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, Lord Chancellor, Chief Coroner and Lord Chief Justice expressing serious concern about the comments, decisions and actions of the coroner”, and calling on Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, to do the same. 

    Mr Dismore said: “It’s not often, if ever, that the Prime Minister, Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Opposition, the Mayors and Leaders of Hackney, Camden, Tower Hamlets, and Islington, the Mayor of London, MPs from across the House, the Jewish and Muslim communities, and even the Law Society Gazette can agree on something but on this issue they do; and I hope and expect all of us here can agree too.”

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