Board calls for Mary Hassell to be dismissed after 'deeply disappointing meeting'

Senior coroner showed 'little interest in addressing Jewish concerns', say communal leaders


The Board of Deputies has called for the dismissal of senior coroner Mary Hassell after a “deeply disappointing” meeting with communal leaders to discuss her refusal to respect Jewish burial requirements.

Marie Van Der Zyl, the vice president of the Board, said Ms Hassell, who heads the St Pancras coroner's court in north London, showed “no inclination” to address Jewish concerns.

Ms Van Der Zyl, together with Sidney Sinitsky, a representative of the Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS), held talks with Ms Hassell on Friday morning. They described the meeting as “deeply disappointing.

“The early release of bodies for those families who want it – including Jewish families – is a fulfilment of the basic human rights of family life and religious practice," Ms Van Der Zyl continued. 

“Not only is Ms Hassell failing to respect those rights, but she shows no inclination to do so. She has lost the confidence of the Jewish community, and appears to have no interest in winning it back.”

A spokesperson for the AYBS said: “It unfortunately appears that Ms. Hassell does not intend to revoke her decision that no death will be prioritised over any other because of religion.

“This is indeed very disturbing. It appears that she is bent on causing yet more pain and anguish to bereaved families during at their time of greatest grief.

The AYBS has lodged a formal complaint against Ms Hassell which is being investigated by a judicial committee.

It was hoped that the meeting today would help both parties reach an understanding.

However, the AYBS spokesperson said: “Under such circumstances we would clearly be left with no alternative but to… use every possible lawful means available to us.

“We fortunately live in a democratic society and very much hope that the powers that be will not allow an individual to continue abusing her position by trampling on the rights and freedom of bereaved families in preventing them from honouring their departed beloved ones according to their respective custom and tradition.” 

Last October Ms Hassell told the AYBS that she was operating a "cab rank rule" which meant that “no death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family”.

A large section of London's Jewish community lives in the area of inner north London under Ms Hassell's jurisdiction.

The senior coroner has been contacted for comment on today's meeting. 

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