Corbyn and Thornberry contact chief coroner over local coroner's controversial policy

Senior coroner Mary Hassell's jurisdiction includes the constituencies of the two senior Labour MPs


Jeremy Corbyn has written to the chief coroner of England and Wales expressing serious concern regarding Mary Hassell’s controversial policy of refusing to recognise religious burial requirements.

In a letter sent to Judge Mark Lucraft QC, Mr Corbyn - whose constituency is part of the area under Mary Hassell’s control - said he had “serious concerns” about her approach.

Last October, Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for inner north London, said she was operating a "cab rank rule”, meaning “no death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family”.

Mr Corbyn raised the ongoing difficulties Jewish and Muslim residents are experiencing as a result of Ms Hassell’s approach, in a letter sent on Friday.

The letter was also signed by Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South & Finsbury, and Islington councillor Richard Watts.

They said the distress caused to those who had lost a loved one was unacceptable.

“People who are dealing with such loss are also experiencing unnecessary delays and barriers to laying their loved ones to rest as a result of her position,” they wrote.

“Coroner Hassell’s approach goes against our Jewish and Muslim residents’ faith and is preventing them from grieving for their lost loved ones.”

The letter states: “Islington is a diverse community that is home to people of many faiths, which they should be free to practice without unnecessary bureaucracy.

“Unfortunately, Coroner Hassell has repeatedly gone against families’ wishes, meaning that these important practices cannot be observed as they should be.”

Mr Corbyn and his Islington colleagues pointed out that other Coroner services across the UK are able to adapt their practices to meet the needs of their community.

“We regret that Coroner Hassell’s conduct as Senior Coroner to date has caused significant upset and undue trauma for people who are already suffering so much and simply want to grieve,” they wrote.

They called on her to reconsider her approach, “so that the Coroner’s Service can be restored to the sympathetic and public-facing service that it has previously been and is expected to be.”

This month a high court judge granted a Jewish burial society the right to a judicial review of Ms Hassell’s controversial policy.

Mr Justice Edward James Holman announced his decision just a week after the lawyers for the Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS) submitted the request for a judicial review into her burial policy.

Mr Justice Holman said the case was an “important” one, which "clearly raises issues of considerable importance to both the Jewish and Muslim communities."

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