'Cab rank' coroner urged to offer weekend service for urgent burial matters after policy outraged Jews and Muslims

'It will provide a degree of comfort for those... who desire an early burial in accordance with their traditions'


A coroner who outraged Muslims and Jews with her policy of refusing to prioritise any death has been urged to follow the example of her neighbouring coroner, who has announced a weekend service to manage urgent cases.

The new service, organised by the senior coroner for Barnet, Brent, Enfield, Harrow and Haringey - Andrew Walker - is the first of its type in London.

It comes after his neighbouring coroner Mary Hassell, who covers inner North London, had to abandon a "cab rank" policy of dealing with deaths, which angered Jews and Muslims, after a court ruled it was discriminatory.

The policy will allow the coroner’s office covering those London councils to respond to urgent requests on Saturdays and Sundays between the hours of 10am to 12pm.

Board of Deputies Vice President Amanda Bowman said the decision "will provide a degree of comfort for those Jewish and other families who desire an early burial in accordance with their traditions".

She said: “This is a win for residents in Harrow, Brent, Barnet, Haringey and Enfield...

"The Senior Coroner for Inner North London Mary Hassell must now urgently follow this example to prevent further costly delays in her service. Camden Council have offered significant resources for her to operate an out of hours service. We urge her to accept this offer." 

The new arrangements are intended to help community and faith groups with urgent requests. Under both Jewish and Muslim law, the deceased is meant to be buried as soon as possible after death, although Jews do not bury on Shabbat.

Ms Hassell's policy was that “no death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family”. In April, the High Court struck down this policy, ruling it unlawful. She is now consulting on a new policy.

Shlome Sinitsky, spokesperson for Adath Yisroel Burial Society, which brought the court case against Ms Hassell earlier this year, said: "Faith groups will be reassured to hear this announcement of a new service from the London North Coroner’s Service.

"We welcome this move, knowing that grieving families will be comforted by this. We are grateful to the Coroner Mr Walker for his sensitivity and understanding.”

Trevor Asserson of the Asserson law firm, which represented the AYBS in its court case against Ms Hassell, said: “I hope that Mary Hassell will take note of the many examples of coroners around the country, and in particular in the jurisdiction next to hers, and start to offer a full service to the people who she is meant to serve, as all her colleagues seem to do."

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