Monday, April 30, 2018

British Court Gives Coroners Guide On Prioritizing Release of Bodies For Religious Reasons

In Adath Yisroel Burial Society v. HM Senior Coroner For Inner North London,  (EWHC, April 27, 2018), a 2-judge panel in England's High Court held unlawful the policy of a London Coroner to categorically refuse to give priority to releasing a body for burial when requested to do so for religious reasons. Jewish and Muslim religious law calls for burial to take place quickly after death. The court summarized its holding in part as follows:
(1) A Coroner cannot lawfully exclude religious reasons for seeking expedition of decisions by that Coroner, including the Coroner’s decision whether to release a body for burial.
(2) A Coroner is entitled to prioritise cases, for religious or other reasons, even where the consequence of prioritising one or some cases may be that other cases will have to wait longer for a decision.... 
(3) Whether to accord one case priority over another or others is for the Coroner to determine. The following further points apply:
a) It is in principle acceptable for the Coroner to implement a policy to address the circumstances when priority will or may be given, so long as that policy is flexible and enables all relevant considerations to be taken into account.
b) The availability of resources may be a relevant consideration in drawing up that policy or in making the decision in any individual case but limitations on resources do not justify discrimination.
(4) It would be wrong for a Coroner to impose a rule of automatic priority for cases where there are religious reasons for seeking expedition.
JTA reports on the decision. [Thanks to Steven H. Sholk for the lead.]