Camden council leader Georgia Gould and MPs write to chief coroner about Inner North London coroner Mary Hassell

PUBLISHED: 11:16 29 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:16 29 January 2018

Mary Hassell has been senior coroner for north London since 2013

Mary Hassell has been senior coroner for north London since 2013


The leader of Camden Council and the borough’s two MPs have written to England and Wales’ Chief Coroner to raise their concerns about the borough’s senior coroner, Mary Hassell.

In an email sent at the end of last week, Cllr Georgia Gould, as well as Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer, and Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq said they “fundamentally disagree with” Ms Hassell’s position that she or one of her deputies cannot agree for a body to be released, from her own home.

Ms Hassell has previously said there are a number of significant additional things that she would like in place to be able to provide this service.

The row had broken out in October after Ms Hassell had stopped prioritising religious burials, which has sparked criticism in recent weeks.

Under Jewish and Islamic law, bodies must be buried on the day of death or as soon as possible afterwards. Both faiths also view invasive post-mortems as desecration, preferring CT body scans.

The letter has also been sent to MPs and council leaders in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, and Islington, which along with Camden, forms the Inner North London district that Ms Hassell covers. Camden is the lead borough for the district.

The three politicians have also requested an urgent meeting with the chief coroner, Judge Mark Lucraft, to discuss the issues.

It has also been sent to Sidney Sinitsky, head of the Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS), and Mohamed Omer, from the Gardens of Peace Islamic Cemetery in Ilford.

The letter also talks about the Camden councillor Abdul Hai’s work to try and make the area’s coroner’s service more suitable for the Jewish and Muslim communities.

This includes an out-of-hours service, the introduction of non-invasive post-mortem techniques, making the service more accessible, a national service charter, and for the Government to provide guidance on cultural issues.

Last week the leader of Islington council, Cllr Richard Watts wrote to Cllr Hai to share his concerns over Ms Hassell not showing the necessary regard for ethnic and religious sensitivities.

A spokeswoman for Ms Hassell declined to comment, as it would be incompatible with her judicial role.

1 comment

  • With regards to your phrase that Ms Hassell had stopped prioritising "religious burials", please note our belief that everyone – Muslims and non-Muslims, Jews and non-Jews, of any religion or of no religion – whoever requests priority for whatever reason should have their wishes considered. However many relatives of deceased routinely choose to delay burials to make various arrangements and are not particularly interested in a speedy process. All GP surgeries create priority appointments for urgent cases and the hospital triage system is designed for that very purpose. Nobody would argue that this amounts to preferential treatment and that one must treat all patients on an equal basis or as the Coroner callously described it “cab-rank rule”. All we have been asking of the Coroner for the past 4½ years is that those who seek a speedy burial of a loved one are prioritised over those who don’t. It is not a matter of special treatment for "religious burials", it’s a matter of flexibility and common sense. Furthermore, in adopting a blanket policy of refusing to take into account religious factors in prioritising cases, Ms. Hassell’s protocol is in breach of convention rights to practice faith and it is indirect discriminatory against s119 Equality Act and in breach of public sector equality duties under s149 of the Act. It is difficult to see how such a rigid policy could ever be proportionate, particularly since no one seems to suffer these problems and inexplicable delays with other coroners.

    Report this comment

    Asher Gratt

    Monday, January 29, 2018

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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