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Judge grants judicial review into coroner in Jewish burials dispute

The review into north London coroner Mary Hassell was granted with "unusual speed", according to a Jewish burial society

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

    A high court judge has granted a Jewish burial society the right to a judicial review of a senior coroner’s controversial policy of refusing to prioritise religious burial requirements.

    Mr Justice Edward James Holman announced his decision just a week after the lawyers for the Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS) submitted the request for a judicial review into the burial policy of Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for inner north London.

    Trevor Asserson, solicitor for ABYS, said the decision had been made with “unusual speed”. Such decisions are typically made after a number of weeks, or even a month.

    Mr Justice Holman said the case was an “important” one, which "clearly raises issues of considerable importance to both the Jewish and Muslim communities."

    The senior judge also elected to make his decision without waiting for a response from Ms Hassell, and in a further unusual step, he has required the Chief Coroner for England and Wales to attend the directions hearing, saying that "any decision in this case cannot be specific to Inner North London but must clearly apply for the whole of England and Wales."

    The judge has ordered a directions hearing to take place in the near future, in order to fix a date for the final hearing.

    Last October, Ms Hassell told the AYBS that she was operating a "cab rank rule”, meaning “no death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family”.

    Despite numerous petitions by ABYS, she has refused to change her policy.

    In the last month a number political figures have called for the issue to be addressed, including Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, whose constituency is part of the area under Ms Hassell's coronial control, and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

    Trevor Asserson, solicitor for the AYBS, said: "Given the unusual speed with which the court has given permission for the judicial review to go forward, the decision to join the Chief Coroner, and the other comments by the judge, it is clear that the court recognises both the importance of the case and the need to deal with it promptly."

    Accusing Ms Hassel of being “out of touch” with those under her jurisdiction, Rabbi Asher Gratt of AYBS said: “We hope that the judicial review will finally bring it to a close in allowing grieving families to bury their loved ones with dignity and compassion.”

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