CORONER ORDERED TO PAY COSTS: CAMDEN RESIDENTS WILL PICK UP THE BILL…
In Adath Yisroel Burial Society & Anor, R (on the application of) v HM Senior Coroner for Inner North London  EWHC 1286 (Admin) the Divisional Court held that a coroner, who was unsuccessful in defending an application for judicial review, should pay the claimants’s costs (in part). (The reality is, as the judgment makes clear, is that the costs will be paid by Camden Council).
“From that date onwards, fairness requires that the costs should not fall on the Claimants’ shoulders; alternatively, from that date onwards, the Defendant ceased to be neutral.”
The claimant brought proceedings for review of the coroner’s policy of not prioritising cases because of the religion of the deceased or their family. The policy adopted was contrary to the advice given by the Chief Coroner.
The court considered the principles relating to costs in judicial review proceedings in detail. It concluded:
i) First, the Defendant’s failure to reconsider her policy in light of the Chief Coroner’s intervention. This is an important consideration when considering where, in fairness, the Claimants’ costs should fall (the fourth limb of Davies).
ii) Secondly, her Addendum Detailed Grounds, filed in answer to the Chief Coroner’s detailed grounds, mark the point at which she ceased to be neutral in stance (second limb of Davies). By them and from that point she advocated the correctness of her policy. She was no longer simply giving information to the court.
For either or both of these reasons, we conclude that the Defendant, indemnified by Camden, must pay the Claimants’ reasonable costs from the date she filed her Addendum, such costs to be the subject of detailed assessment if not agreed. From that date onwards, fairness requires that the costs should not fall on the Claimants’ shoulders; alternatively, from that date onwards, the Defendant ceased to be neutral.
The costs order we make against the Defendant includes the Claimants’ costs of making the application for costs. We see no reason to depart from the ordinary rule: the Claimants claimed, and have secured, an order for costs in their favour and they are entitled to their costs of making the application. We are not persuaded that the fact that they failed on ground iii), or that the costs order only runs from 8 March 2018, should result in non-recovery of any of the costs of making the application. In addition, a large amount of costs will doubtless have been spent in dealing with the indemnity issue, which was raised and then abandoned by Camden and for that further reason it is appropriate for the Claimants to recover their costs of making the application in full.
We confirm that we make no costs order prior to 8 March 2018. That is consistent with Davies and the principle that a coroner who remains neutral should not ordinarily be liable for costs. That principle in and of itself envisages what some may regard as unfairness, because it will leave a successful claimant having to bear their own costs of a successful action. But there are, up to the point when the Addendum was entered, no particular considerations or factors which cause us to exercise our discretion in the Claimants’ favour by awarding costs to them. For the reasons we have given, the position changes from the point that the Addendum was lodged.