Friday, May 18, 2018

England's Chief Coroner Gives Guidance On Rapid Release of Bodies For Religious Reasons

As previously reported, in England last month a 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. Such requests are often made by Jewish and Muslim families whose beliefs call for burial quickly after death.  (See prior posting.)  Yesterday, the Chief Coroner of England and Wales issued Guidance No. 28 (full text), designed to give practical guidance to local coroners when expedited release is requested for religious or other reasons.  The Guidance reads in part:
14. The judgment in the AYBS Case reflects two important legal considerations: (i) that a coroner should be open to representations that a particular case should be treated as a matter of urgency (whether for religious or other reasons); and (ii) that proper respect should be given to representations based on religious belief.
15. However, the decision of the Court does not require a coroner to give automatic priority to deaths from particular religious communities, nor does it require coroners to drop other important work to deal with such deaths. The Court also recognised that other deaths may require urgent handling for non-religious reasons.
16. There is no obligation for coroners to adopt formal written policies for dealing with requests for expedition or for dealing with deaths from faith communities.... However, any policy or practices adopted by coroners must be sufficiently flexible to allow them to give due consideration to expediting decisions where there is good reason to do so. They should seek to strike a fair balance between the interests of those with a well-founded request for expedition (including on religious grounds) and other families who may be affected.
Jewish Chronicle reports on the new Guidance document.