Ahead of next week’s judicial review into a London coroner’s “cab-rank” rule for releasing bodies for burial, newly-released figures show that the last review against the same coroner cost the taxpayer £240,000.
It follows a Freedom of Information request from the Board of Deputies, asking Camden Council how much it cost the consortium of local councils to defend the controversial policies of the senior coroner for Inner North London, Mary Hassell.
The figures show that legal costs concerning Hassell and her practice in 2014/15 amounted to £78,000, while in 2015/16 that figure doubled to £162,000. The costs are split between Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets.
Hassell has said the religion of the deceased or their family should not lead to the leapfrogging or prioritisation of bodies being released for burial, but last month lawyers for an Orthodox burial society revealed that the Chief Coroner disagreed.
The judicial review, scheduled for next week, was brought by Trevor Asserson, a lawyer acting for the Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS) in Stamford Hill, just over three years after the parties first met in court.
At the time, Hassell acknowledged the importance of a speedy burial in Judaism and agreed that most Jews who die at home in north London could be immediately sent to the Carmel Funeral Home in Stamford Hill, rather of going to a public mortuary.
However, relations between her office and both Muslim and Jewish representatives broke down in October after Hassell withdrew the special arrangements, citing resourcing issues, following persistent demands for next-day post-mortems.
The Board of Deputies, the Chief Rabbi and several local MPs have called for Hassell to be sacked, but the only person able to do so is the Lord Chancellor.
Hassell has accused Asserson’s firm of “bullying behaviour” and has submitted written evidence showing how Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC at first said Hassell’s policy guidance was “excellent,” but subsequent to the challenge, changed his mind.