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Judicial review of coroner’s burial policy begins in High Court

The decision is expected next month

    The Royal Courts of Justice (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Rafa Esteve)

    Judgment is expected to be reserved in the judicial review of the burial policy of Senior Coroner Mary Hassell, with the decision expected next month.

    The hearing began on Tuesday at the Administrative Court at the Royal Courts of Justice and is being heard by Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Whipple. It will continue tomorrow.

    The judicial review was applied for by the Adath Yisrael Burial Society (AYBS) over Ms Hassell's policy that of not prioritising death because of the religion of the deceased.

    The burial society has challenged the policy because it ignores the Jewish religious requirement for swift burials.

    Ms Hassell, the coroner for Inner North London, was unrepresented in court. When asked by Lord Justice Singh whether she wanted to make a statement to add to her previous submissions to the court, she replied that she would not, due to her “wish to maintain a neutral position”.

    Sam Grodzinski QC and Khawar Qureshi QC represented the Adath Yisroel Burial Society and Ita Cymerman, the plaintiffs in the case.

    Mr Grodzinski brought statements from Jewish and Muslim religious leaders about the importance of speedy burial, telling the court that it was “quite common for a close relative of the deceased to miss a burial if they are abroad,”

    He noted a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on funerals and bereavement, which said families were generally “happy to wait” for burial, and that the average time between death and burial was 15 days.

    “That [time length] would be enormously distressing to the Jewish and Muslim communities,” Mr Grodzinski said.

    Lord Justice Singh observed that there appeared to be a “fundamental difference of view” between the two sides.

    Jonathan Hough QC, representing Judge Mark Lucraft, the chief coroner of England and Wales, was asked by Lord Justice Singh about guidance issued by the previous chief coroner, which stated that “the law does not allow the coroner to give priority to any one person over another”.

    He responded: “Read literally and in isolation, we disagree with it.”

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