This is a new one

But in a judgment released on Friday Lord Justice Singh and Mr Justice Whipple said her understanding of the law was “misguided” and the guidance was incorrect.

“What on its face looks like a general policy which applies to everyone equally may in fact have an unequal impact on a minority.

“In other words, to treat everyone in the same way is not necessarily to treat them equally.

“Uniformity is not the same thing as equality,” they said.

Jews and Muslims have a 3 day policy – the body should be in the ground within three days of death.

A coroner who operated a “cab rank” system for burials has been told by the High Court to drop her policy and release the bodies of Jews and Muslims first.

Judges said the “equality protocol” policy introduced by Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for inner north London, was “discriminatory” and “incapable of rational justification”.

The protocol said that “no death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family, either by the coroner’s officers or coroners.”

This meant cases were assessed and bodies released for burial by the coroner’s office in order of when they were received, taking no account of any religious requirements.

Thus that’s discriminatory.

Seems an entirely reasonable decision on the basis of simple pragmatism. Why not accommodate such beliefs after all?

The more general statement that uniformity is not equality needs to be carefully circumscribed though, doesn’t it?

53 comments on “This is a new one

  1. Accommodation of the religious beliefs of these two religions is discrimination against Christians, Atheists and other beliefs, theist, or non-theist.
    Given the penchant for acceptance of the wildest claims by zealots of the most bizarre religions by your courts, the senior coroners policy seems quite rational.
    Your legal practitioners have not recently covered themselves with glory.

  2. This is one of those reports that suggest this country is irredeemably screwed. So not discriminating against anyone is now illegal discrimination?

    Why should you get your granny’s body released ahead of mine just because you believe in a particular brand of sky fairy? If I claim a deep belief in early burial just because I’m awkward does my relative jump the queue as well?

  3. Thus that’s discriminatory.

    That line owes much to the Captain Potato school of logic.

  4. What a crock of shit.

    And if I happen to “believe” that services I pay for should be as efficient as possible and return my loved es body to me as soon as practically possible?

    Why is my belief less valid simply because I haven’t formed a cult around it?

  5. I think we all subscribe to the concept of cutting people a little slack, not least in the area of religion. Hell, if that’s what helps you navigate life, more power to your elbow. Too often, however, as soon as you do someone a favour, turn a blind eye, they go on to take the piss.

  6. Given the taste a particular crew have for murdering relatives who don’t live up to the in-group idea of doing-what-they- oughta then 3 days is far too short a time to check what has been going on.

    Again a decent PM would find a way to end Whipple’s career within three days on standard Eck’s terms. And manage to arrange a small but unpleasant encounter for him with covert operatives that left the ex-judgeboy feeling temporarily but decidedly unwell.

  7. The judges said the policy was “incapable of rational justification”.

    That’s probably the worst part of this. Clearly it can very easily be rationally justified – the whole reason for it was a rational justification. It illustrates the deranged attitude of our Establishment – rationalism is irrational, freedom is slavery.

  8. The next thing should be for an atheist to sue on the grounds that his relatives burial is being delayed purely because he is not religious.

  9. The people who are being asked to cut some slack are generally the non-religious. I can’t see any slack being cut in the other direction by the Jews/Muslims here. Ok, it’s not a big deal, if a non-religious person has a funeral to plan, they might end up returning to work a day later, and the employer will cut you some slack over that which is a cost to employer and co-workers. We can live with that but I think it is an externality.
    Aside: Having some bishops in the HoL thinking they’re qualified to make trade laws is taking the piss.

  10. @Darren

    “Why is my belief less valid simply because I haven’t formed a cult around it?”

    Because you haven’t formed a cult around it.

  11. What was it that the old racist said about certain people having the whip hand or some such?

    Ladies and gentlemen, I present exhibit A – our racist Judiciary.

  12. Jim, the belief or lack of belief of the person whose relative has died does not matter. Its the belief of the person who died that matters.
    You can be an atheist and have a Jewish relative die – your belief does not impact the time taken for the Jewish relative to be buried.

  13. @Martin: well who is doing the suing then? The dead person? I don’t think so, its the relatives who are suing because their religious beliefs are not being given special treatment. The dead person doesn’t give a fuck, he’s dead, and can’t sue anyone. Its the living religious nutters who care, and are suing.

    So my point stands – if Uncle Bob the non-Jew/Muslim dies, and it takes weeks for him to be dealt with, because other Jews and Muslims keep popping their clogs, and need to be dealt with first, then that is de facto discrimination on grounds of religious belief, and his non-Jewish/Muslim family should sue.

    I’d like to see how the judiciary get round that bit of the Equality Act.

  14. “In other words, to treat everyone in the same way is not necessarily to treat them equally.”

    If this was anything else, then just another couple of crooked Marxists pushing equality of outcome, But even more fucking batty, in that now it’s our personal beliefs that determine what that outcome should be. And hence, what Mike Fowle said.

    But this is perhaps different, in that we can’t pay the surcharge, it’s a state controlled service. It’s not the funeral director (a choice), it’s the coroner.

    Dave C – he did, it just wasn’t a very big cult.

  15. Jim has seen the ultimate flaw in the ruling, it will only apply in a dominant Muslim area, but being not of that faith will they have to shift the body out to a Christian area to be buried as the deceased will never get to the head of the queue if the body stays in that area !

  16. “ it takes weeks for him to be dealt with, because other ….. Muslims keep popping their clogs,”

    I’d be more than happy to wait if that was the reason.

  17. The legal decision is actually a bit more complicated than the selective quotes in the Telegraph would suggest.

    The core of the decision is that a coroner legally has discretion to prioritise cases based on all the circumstances. These already include prioritisation for organ donation and homicide investigations. It can also include family priorities and preferences. Thus, a lot of families may be in no hurry. Other families may want a swift resolution because of other commitments. While religious beliefs have no priority over any other category of wish, neither can they excluded. By instituting a written policy that denied all discretion, and in particular explicitly excluded taking any account of religious reasons, this was unlawful.

    However, they’re also clear that a policy automatically favouring Jews and Muslims for priority would be equally illegal. You can go to the coroner and ask for a quick decision for any other reason, even a deeply held secular belief, and they need to take account of it on the same basis.

    The reason for the law on indirect discrimination is to stop people getting round the law by discriminating on non-protected categories that happen to be strongly associated with protected ones. Like replacing the “No Jews” sign with a “Bacon-eaters only” sign. But this doesn’t forbid required limits that happen to discriminate indirectly if there is no way of achieving the goal without them. (Like advertising a job for gourmet bacon quality control taster.) If there are a range of policies you could take, and some other can achieve your reasonable purposes without indirect discrimination, then the ones that discriminate indirectly are illegal. Only if there is no way of avoiding it can you consider it justified.

    Since the Coroner here didn’t *have* to implement a taxi-rank policy – they had legal discretion – they could have implemented a flexible policy that allows for family preferences to be taken into account. The taxi-rank policy was therefore not rationally justifiable as unavoidable. (And indeed, was not operated, as they already prioritised some cases on other grounds.)

    It’s a complicated issue, though. I can certainly understand why the Coroner did what they did.

  18. Bernie G. – “I think we all subscribe to the concept of cutting people a little slack, not least in the area of religion. Hell, if that’s what helps you navigate life, more power to your elbow. Too often, however, as soon as you do someone a favour, turn a blind eye, they go on to take the piss.”

    What Bernie said. I am all for the law making allowances for people who want to live their life the way they want to. Within some fairly broad limits. It does not bother me at all that motorcyclists can refuse to wear a turban if they happen to be Sikhs. Good for them – if they want to take that risk. I do not even mind if female police officers of a Muslim persuasion want to wear a blue-and-white checked head scarf.

    One problem is that many of the limits are not within that fairly broad remit. But this one? Burying the dead within a few days while everyone else waits? Can’t say I care. I don’t see it does much harm.

    Another problem is that the minorities – or more often their self-loathing White enablers – push that much further than they should. They are taking the proverbial p!ss. Does that apply here? Not yet but we will see.

    But the real problem is that this is a one way path. We adjust for them. They do not adjust for us. Indeed they call us racist if we decline to adjust for them.

    Which is why Windrush was just a start and we need to return a whole lot more people to their homelands.

  19. I’m a member of a religion called Slakers. We believe in burying granny on day 2 after death. How do I claim my priority?

  20. One has to wonder about the conditions that led to the taxi-rank system being instituted in the first place. My guess is that so many people were jumping to the front of the queue that others were having to wait several weeks or even months, hence the change.

    Without more resources, I don’t see the situation getting any better.

  21. “One has to wonder about the conditions that led to the taxi-rank system being instituted in the first place.”

    According to the judgement, average waiting times were around 15 days. But that’s mainly down to how close the resources allocated are to the death rate. It doesn’t have to be the result of queue jumping. (Standard queueing theory says that it depends on the statistics of the arrival rate d and processing rate p. If it’s an M/M/1 queue then queue length is (d/p)/(1-d/p). It’s not unreasonable to expect this can be a big number if d/p is close to 1.)

    However, the perception in this case was clearly that “queue-jumping” was taking place.

    My team and I have a statutory duty to perform and within its structure we try to help families. We endeavour to accommodate each one. However, what I have described to the [First] Claimant in person and in writing, is the significant negative impact that prioritisation of one sector of the community above others has had upon the families of those other deceased. It is my experience over twelve years as coroner that queue jumping places those who are pushed back further in the queue at a material disadvantage.

  22. “English is dying fast.”

    Yep. As the Benedictines said in 1387:

    “By commiyxtion and mellyng, furst wiþ Danes and afterward wiþ Normans, in menye þe contray longage ys apeyred and som useþ strange wlaffyng chyteryng, harryng, and garryng grisbyttyng.”

  23. “According to the judgement, average waiting times were around 15 days.”

    Thats with cab rank. If certain people get a guaranteed 3 day turnaround, from average 15 today, then as many others are going to have to wait nearly 2 weeks longer to compensate, pushing their wait to nearly a month.

    Given a reasonably large sized Muslim and/or Jewish population in an area any non-Jew/Muslim is going to end up waiting indefinitely at certain times of year when the death rate is higher. Its entirely possible that the system will only be able to cope with dealing with just the Jewish and Muslim deaths on a 3 day turnaround for maybe months at a time. Anyone outside the privileged sky fairy clans could end up waiting months until the death rate drops and they finally get to the top of the queue. The greater the Jewish/Muslim proportion of the population, the longer everyone else will have to wait.

  24. “However, they’re also clear that a policy automatically favouring Jews and Muslims for priority would be equally illegal. ”

    But thats what will now happen. If the coroner has the ‘discretion’ to allow a fast turnaround for certain religions, they will all demand it as a matter of course. And if person A is given that allowance for their faith beliefs, then all requests from that faith will have to as well, there’s no other criteria to refuse on.

    And where the coroner has discretion that will be used against the non-religious, because needing Granny buried asap because you’re going on holiday next week will be given less weight than believing in sky fairies. And less likely to get the coroner into trouble.

    So while the policy may become ‘all requests for fast turnaround will be given equal consideration’ the reality will be the religious nutters get what they want all the time because they’ll kick off if they aren’t (and any refusals will be followed by screams of racism) while the people who need a fast turnaround for secular reasons will be given the bums rush, because they don’t have lots of people who have exactly the same problem to back them up, and they can’t shout racism, especially if they’re white. And if you’re very middle class and British about the whole thing and ‘don’t want to cause a fuss’ you’ll end up waiting months while steady steam of religious nutters get dealt with ahead of you.

  25. “If certain people get a guaranteed 3 day turnaround…”

    Nobody gets a guaranteed 3 day turnaround. All that is being proposed is that family wishes can be taken into account, along with all other factors, and that some flexibility is permitted.

    If there’s a big queue at the time and other people also have claims for priority, particular religions don’t get any privilege. They have to wait. But *if* the queue is short at the time and nobody else is in any deperate rush, there’s no reason not to show a bit of discretion.

    I repeat – the judgement is *not* saying that particular religious groups get priority, or any guarantees. It just says that coroners can be flexible when the opportunity arises, and that families’ religious beliefs are one of the many legitimate reasons that can be taken into account.

  26. “If the coroner has the ‘discretion’ to allow a fast turnaround for certain religions, they will all demand it as a matter of course.”

    Quoting from the judgement:

    First, it does not protect only freedom of religion. It protects freedom of all thought (including the beliefs of those who have no religious faith) and freedom of conscience.

    So anyone can claim it.

  27. This bit may be more useful:

    106. In this context we have also been assisted by the evidence to which we have referred from three Coroners in other areas in the country. Although it is right to observe that one of those areas (Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire) does not have large Muslim or Jewish communities (as the area of Inner North London does), the other two areas (Liverpool and the Wirral and Manchester West) do. From their evidence and from Mr Hough’s submissions it is clear that it is perfectly possible for Coroners to have a practice or policy which does not have the rigid effect of the Defendant’s policy. For example, Mr Rebello (Senior Coroner for Liverpool and the Wirral) states in his witness statement, at para. 24:

    “We will, where possible, prioritise cases where the family have need for the early release of a body for any reason, be it secular or religious”.

    107. This also underlines the point that what Article 9 requires is not that there should be any favouritism, whether in favour of religious belief in general or in favour of any particular religious faith, but that there should be a fair balance struck between the rights and interests of different people in society. The fundamental flaw in the present policy adopted by the Defendant is that it fails to strike any balance at all, let alone a fair balance.

  28. What needs changing first of all is a system that has a 15-day waiting time. Who is taking the proverbial? Little Miss Coroner, IMHO.
    Some Jews and Muslims have said that this wait is unacceptable on religious grounds. It is unacceptable on any grounds you may choose.
    Ms Hassell should get her finger out and get on with her job or hire someone who will.

  29. I wonder how many commentators would be attacking NiV if the people who had complained about the wait were “Humanists”?

  30. Thanks NiV for reading the judgement.
    It’s still not clear how the taxi rank policy came into being in inner North London. Chesterton’s fence and all that, it would be interesting to know

  31. Maybe the reason is that while it is within her discretion, not an automatic garunteed right, she was fed up of having to explain why she was saying No or that maybe there was an inference she or her staff were racist if they said No by some groups. Dealing with grieving relatives isn’t easy, people aren’t always acting rationally.

  32. ” It is unacceptable on any grounds you may choose.
    Ms Hassell should get her finger out and get on with her job or hire someone who will.”

    She agrees. But who’s going to pay for hiring someone?

    In that letter, she said that she had “devised a protocol for the future to ensure that the bereaved whose loved ones fall within the remit of HM Coroner for Inner North London aretreated fairly, and the best use is made overall of the inadequate resources that have been placed at my disposal

    The queue length depends on the ratio of the average rate at which deaths occur and the average time it takes for a coroner to deal with them. If deaths occur at 93% of the rate they’re dealt with, the average queue will be 15 cases long. So if each case takes a day (say), that’s 15 days.

    If you want to reduce the wait time to 3 days, you would need deaths to occur at 66% of the rate they’re dealt with. You would need to increase resources by about 40%, and accept that for about a third of the time the coroner will be getting paid but have nothing to do. I’m sure that would delight the coroner!

    (I expect the real numbers would be a bit different, but the same principle applies.)

    “I wonder how many commentators would be attacking NiV if the people who had complained about the wait were “Humanists”?”

    By local standards, nobody is attacking me yet. I don’t mind robust disagreement!

    But thanks for the support. 🙂

  33. “It’s still not clear how the taxi rank policy came into being in inner North London. Chesterton’s fence and all that, it would be interesting to know”

    My understanding is that the coroner noted that the Jewish community were getting priority, and was making a good faith attempt to comply with the Equality Act and redress the balance. Unfortunately, she had misunderstood what the act actually required (understandably so, the point is pretty subtle), and instead of making clear that everyone had an equal claim on discretionary priority, whether they were religious or not, instead denied discretionary priority to anyone.

    I have to say, when Tim posted the case description above, I was a bit conflicted myself what the (legally) right thing to do would be. I don’t think it’s at all obvious! I chased down and read the decision mainly because I was curious to find out for myself.

    I can’t say I fully agree with the idea of a distinction being made between “protected” and “non-protected” categories in discrimination law, on general libertarian principles. But given what the law is, the judgement seems like a reasonable and technically quite clever solution to the question.

  34. “The legal decision is actually a bit more complicated than the selective quotes in the Telegraph would suggest.”

    No it’s not. If you don’t like the way the coroner is handling it, vote for a different one. The rest is bull shit.

  35. @ NiV Maybe the Jewish community were getting priority, but they themselves didn’t think they were. This from the Jewish Chronicle:
    “Rabbi Asher Gratt of the burial society said: “This legal victory will bring immense relief for grieving families to bury their loved ones with respect and dignity, preventing further unnecessary anguish at the darkest moment of their lives.”

    So no, this is not about redressing a balance. This is about upsetting a balance whereby people were treated the same irrespective of colour, race or creed.

    Upset that balance at your peril.


    https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/mary-hassell-coroner-burial-policy-st-pancras-cab-rank-high-court-1.463195

  36. WTF?
    The state prohibits folks from burying their dead for maybe weeks and all the comentards above argue about is how much delay is OK and whether those of “the religion of peace” and others should or should not get to jump the bureaucratic queue.
    Perhaps we should be examining the question of why permission is needed other than in “dodgey” circumstances. Even given a need for permission, why is 2 hours too long?

  37. “I repeat – the judgement is *not* saying that particular religious groups get priority, or any guarantees. It just says that coroners can be flexible when the opportunity arises, and that families’ religious beliefs are one of the many legitimate reasons that can be taken into account.”

    The practical effect will however be exactly that – a special speedy line for the people with religious ‘issues’, that results in everyone else being pushed backwards. Regardless of what the policy says, no coroner will now feel able to turn down a religious request for special treatment, because if they do they’ll face charges of discrimination. When of course in reality the religious will be getting special treatment they don’t deserve.

    We are constantly told that equality is not equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome. If a policy affects a certain section of society disproportionately, even if its not anywhere near 100%, then its discriminatory. This policy will negatively affect non-Jewish/non-Muslim people, all over the country now, but more so in areas with large amounts of either group. They will face being pushed to the rear precisely because they’re not religious, which is prima facie discrimination.

    But because its Muslims being given special treatment, equality can go out the window. Imagine the converse – a state policy that meant Muslims were being negatively affected as a group, the usual suspects would be screaming racism and discrimination to the rafters.

  38. “No it’s not. If you don’t like the way the coroner is handling it, vote for a different one. The rest is bull shit.”

    If you don’t like the Equality Act, vote in a government who will repeal it. Until then…

    “@ NiV Maybe the Jewish community were getting priority, but they themselves didn’t think they were. This from the Jewish Chronicle:

    “Rabbi Asher Gratt of the burial society said: “This legal victory will bring immense relief for grieving families to bury their loved ones with respect and dignity, preventing further unnecessary anguish at the darkest moment of their lives.””

    I was being asked about the situation before the introduction of the policy. The comment you quote is about the situation after the introduction of the policy.

    “Perhaps we should be examining the question of why permission is needed other than in “dodgey” circumstances.”

    That’s all explained in the judgement. The delay is caused by precisely this process of deciding whether the circumstances are “dodgy”, which sometimes requires an investigation

    35. As will be apparent from the statistics to which we have referred earlier, the majority of deaths in England and Wales are not notified to a Coroner at all. Deaths are usually notified if a clinician or some other person (for example a police officer) considers that the cause of death may have been unnatural or violent, or that the cause is unclear.

    […]

    37. The notification of a death and associated papers will first be considered by a Coroner’s officer, who will prepare a short report for the Coroner to consider the case. The process of preparing that report may involve some enquiries being made by telephone to discover more about the death or the deceased person.

    38. A Coroner will then review the officer’s report and the file to decide what steps should be taken. If he or she decides (either at the outset or after some enquiries) that no further investigation is needed (i.e. that the cause of death is clear and was natural), he or she will complete a Form 100A, giving notice of the intention not to proceed further and so facilitating the registration of the death.

    39. The Coroner may decide that a PME is required, either to determine whether to commence an investigation or to decide whether to continue an investigation which has been commenced. In that case a PME will be arranged by the Coroner’s officer with a pathologist.

    40. If the PME allows the cause of death to be established such that further investigation is not required, the Coroner will complete a Form 100B. Again, the completion of that form enables the death to be registered.

    Seriously, the answers to a lot of the questions being asked here are easily available by simply reading the judgement we’re all talking about. Though if you prefer to let me do the work and just take my word for it, that’s fine too. 🙂

    https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/aybs-v-hmcoroner-judgment.pdf

  39. If they had any decency, they’d book their burials well in advance and then die at the right time……

  40. Nautical Nick – “If they had any decency, they’d book their burials well in advance and then die at the right time……”

    Well in fairness a reasonable number of Muslims are trying to make sure a lot of non-Muslims do precisely that.

    Although they are not being really helpful and notifying the authorities first.

  41. “Perhaps we should be examining the question of why permission is needed other than in “dodgey” circumstances. Even given a need for permission, why is 2 hours too long?”

    Harold Shipman’s victims weren’t thought of as dodgy.

  42. “If you don’t like the Equality Act, vote in a government who will repeal it. Until then…”

    “If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass”

  43. How the hell do you organise a funeral in three days? It would take more than three days for some of my relatives to actually get here. Organising time off work, dumping the kids somewhere, arranging transport and accommodation, the actual travel. and that’s ignoring arranging a hole in the ground and finding a spare slot for the transport.

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