A senior coroner has been ordered to pay £68,000 in interim costs following a controversial judgment in which her policy for dealing with burials was declared unlawful.

In a judgment yesterday the High Court said Inner North London chief coroner Mary Hassell, indemnified by the London Borough of Camden, should pay £68,000 on account of interim costs within 21 days. In April, the court declared her ‘cab-rank’ burial policy unlawful branding it ‘inflexible’ and ‘incapable of rational justification’.

Hassell had attracted controversy when she declared that no death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family’.

In February, the High Court granted a judicial review application by Jewish funeral organiser Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS) into the policy. Jewish [and Islamic] law requires bodies to be buried on the day of death or as soon as possible afterwards.

The chief coroner of England and Wales, his honour Judge Mark Lucraft QC, also joined the JR proceedings as an interested party. In a court document seen by the Gazette, Lucraft said he considered the policy was not lawful, even though it may have been produced in a sincere desire to be fair to everyone in her area.

In yesterday’s judgment Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Whipple said there were two bases on which to conclude that the AYBS must succeed.

Firstly, Hassell’s failure to reconsider her policy in light of the chief coroner’s intervention and secondly, an addendum she filed in answer to the chief coroner.

The court said the addendum marked the point at which she ‘ceased to be neutral’ in stance. ‘By then and from that point she advocated the correctness of her policy. She was no longer simply giving information to the court,’ the judgment said.


AYBS was represented by London firm Asserson, who instructed Sam Grodzinski QC of Blackstone Chambers and Benjamin Tankel of 39 Essex Chambers. Hassell was represented by international firm Withers who instructed Jonathan Glasson QC of Matrix Chambers.