Coroner row: Victory for Jewish and Muslim campaigners as judges quash Mary Hassell’s ‘cab-rank’ system

PUBLISHED: 11:38 27 April 2018 | UPDATED: 16:12 27 April 2018

Asher Gratt and Abdul Hai outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the judgement

Asher Gratt and Abdul Hai outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the judgement


Jewish and Muslim communities in north London were celebrating this morning as judges quashed senior coroner Mary Hassell’s “cab-rank” system of dealing with deaths.

The High Court on the Strand, where two senior judges this morning quashed Mary Hassell's 'cab rank' system. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA ArchiveThe High Court on the Strand, where two senior judges this morning quashed Mary Hassell's 'cab rank' system. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive

The ruling was handed down at the High Court by Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Whipple after a two-day judicial hearing last month.

In a judgment lasting about a minute, Justice Singh said: “The application has succeeded on all grounds, on a public sector duty.

“The policy is unlawful.”

In the 56-page written judgement, the judges referred to Ms Hassell’s system as “unlawful, misguided, and discriminatory”.

It also agreed the claimants were not seeking automatic priority.

“We agree with the claimants and the chief coroner that [...] there should be no rule of automatic priority for those seeking expedition on religious grounds.

“That is not what the claimants were seeking.”

Lord Justice Singh also criticised Ms Hassell’s understanding and practise of discrimination.

“What on its face looks like a general policy that applies to everyone equally may in fact have an unequal impact on a minority,” he said. “In other words, to treat everyone the same way is not necessarily to treat them equally.

“Uniformity is not the same as equality.”

The battle between the communities has raged since November last year, when an agreement was withdrawn that allowed for the quicker release of bodies for burial, and for Jewish communities to keep watch over their dead before burial.

Both the Muslim and Jewish faiths place special importance on people being buried as soon as possible.

The policy applied to deaths in Camden, Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets, which form the Inner North London region.

In a statement after the ruling, Ms Hassell thanked the court for its “clarification of the law,”

She said: “The senior coroner will consider every family for prioritisation. In deciding the order of priority, she will take into account all relevant considerations, including the special needs of each individual family.

“The senior coroner looks forward to the chief coroner’s new guidance, which he has indicated he will produce soon. She will then undertake a consultation process with stakeholders before producing her own policy.”

But there are calls for her to resign in the wake of the ruling.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said: “If she cannot carry out this basic function of her role, she must vacate her position.”

Rabbi Asher Gratt, spokesman for Stamford Hill’s Adath Yisroel Burial Society – which brought the action against Ms Hassell – told this newspaper he was delighted.

“This is a ruling in favour of democracy and freedom,” he said, “and it is a very exciting day for the United Kingdom.

“We have been living a life of oppression, a life of discrimination, anguish and fear. Today is a day of extreme relief.”

Abdul Hai, Camden Council’s cabinet member for young people and cohesion, also welcomed the decision.

“I have been campaigning for a long time, saying the ruling is unlawful,” he said.

“You saw a clear judgement today. I call upon Ms Hassell to work with the community to introduce a flexible service for a diverse community.”

Mayor of Hackney Phil Glanville said Ms Hassell needed to rebuild the public’s confidence.

“Common sense and a sensitive approach to the needs of our diverse communities could have prevented this situation,” he said, “and I hope the coronor and her team will reflect on the decision and work with us to rebuild the confidence of local people and the communities we represent in this important service.”

Related articles

Latest Islington News Stories

Pleasance Theatre Trust has been awarded £47,000 to deliver a new youth outreach programme centred in Cally’s Market Estate.

A man has been charged with the fatal stabbing of a 25-year-old in Tufnell Park.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

We talk to hundreds of local business owners every day; we hear their concerns, understand their challenges and share in their successes.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Elderly people fought to save a Highbury day centre from closure at a heated full council meeting last night, during which the mayor of Islington told the borough’s housing boss to “shut up”.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Cops have made two arrests in connection with the fatal stabbing of a 25-year-old man in Tufnell Park on Tuesday.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A cyclist who was hit by a car in St John Street on Wednesday morning has died, police have confirmed.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Open House London takes place this weekend and an iconic building in Holloway built as a haven for torture survivors is throwing open its doors.

Friday, September 21, 2018

An architect has slammed “petty” Islington planners who have again told him to demolish his multi-award winning block in Clerkenwell.


Fostering older teenagers means giving them the skills for life as an adult. Here, a supportive lodgings carer with Islington Council and young adult who has left care share their stories

Newsletter Sign Up

Islington Gazette twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now