The Adath Yisrael Burial Society (AYBS) in Stamford Hill was granted the right on Friday to a judicial review of the ‘cab rank’ protocol of the Inner North London Coroner, Mary Hassell. Justice Holman has ordered a directions hearing to take place in the near future to fix a date for the final hearing.
Mary Hassell, whose area of jurisdiction includes Stamford Hill, has come into conflict with the kehillah there, and with the local Muslim community, on a number of occasions since her appointment in 2012. Over the years, she has tried to insist on invasive autopsies when the family have offered to pay for non-invasive alternatives, which could be performed more quickly; and ignored pleas from both communities to make herself, or a staff member, available to process the paperwork out of hours, allowing for speedy burial.
In 2016, she was formally reprimanded by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, following complaints by members of the kehillah. In 2015, her decisions were successfully challenged in the High Court, where injunctions were served against her and in Judicial Review, where she was found to have acted unlawfully and ordered to pay costs.
She was formally reprimanded by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office for having publicized a letter in which she claimed she was being bullied by the Jewish community.
In a very unusual step Judge Holman granted permission for the Judicial Review to go forward at what the Judge refers to as “this very early stage” even before waiting for the response from Coroner Hassell. The judge states that the claim “…clearly raises issues of considerable importance to the Jewish and Muslim communities.” The judge then refers to the case as “important” and recognizes 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 then took another unusual step by joining the Chief Coroner for England and Wales as an interested party, and requires the Chief Coroner to attend the directions hearing.
“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 recognizes both the importance of the case and the need to deal with it promptly” commented Trevor Asserson, solicitor for the AYBS.
Rabbi Asher Gratt, on behalf of the ABYS said that: “Ms. Hassell has already lost several injunctions and a Judicial Review, and has also been disciplined by the Judicial Conduct Investigation Office, but she simply carries on with her unhelpful and rigid conduct. For four and a half years she has now been out of touch in meeting the needs of this diverse community and 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.”
Over the years, Ms. Hassell has caused significant delay to many Jewish burials.