The Chief Coroner of England and Wales has strongly criticised the conduct of Mary Hassell, the controversial Senior Coroner for Inner North London over her policy of refusing to prioritise religious burials as “unlawful”.
Judge Mark Lucraft described Ms Hassell’s conduct as “over rigid”, “not capable of rational justification”, and “unlawful”.
He also described the Ms Hassell’s failure to respect the Jewish and Muslim requirement for quick burials as being in breach of the Human Rights Act. He said: “The interest of a Jewish or Muslim person in having a close relative buried on the day of death or as soon as possible thereafter qualifies as a right protected by Article 9 [Human Rights Act]. Early burial is a manifestation of religious belief.”
Judge Lucraft made the comments as part of his submission to a judicial review being held following an application by the Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS).
AYBS took legal action after Ms Hassell, who authority cover the boroughs of Camden, Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets, refused to retract her “cab rank rule” that “no death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family”.
All parties involved with the judicial review were required to submit detailed grounds and evidence by March 2. In Ms Hassell’s own submission, she said: “My approach reflects my best attempt to consider the rights of all those who are in my jurisidiction.” She also provided three anonymous letters written in support of her actions.
But Trevor Asserson, solicitor for the AYBS, said: “Evidence in the form of short anonymous letters will have little if any weight.”
Mr Asserson described the support of the Chief Coroner for the position of the AYBS as being “of huge importance.
“The Chief Coroner is a senior judge, and probably the most authoritative voice on coronial law in the UK. His support of this claim further isolates Mary Hassell who is made to appear legally illiterate.”
Rabbi Asher Gratt, of the AYBS, said: “We hope this will lead to end the added sufferings and anguish of grieving relatives when facing bureaucracy and inflexible procedures that prevents the prompt burial of their loved ones.”
The judicial review case is due to be heard in the Divisional Court on March 27 and 28.