The London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden has called for the Lord Chancellor to sack a controversial coroner for refusing to fast-track the autopsies of Jews on religious grounds.
Andrew Dismore, the MP for Hendon until 2010, called for the head of Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for Inner North London, who he said has faced “one court case after another,” with hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal costs.
He said the cases had been “brought by bereaved families who should have been given space to grieve, not forced to the courtroom to obtain respect for their cultural expectations”.
Hassell, originally from Wales, has long provoked the ire of religious Jews and Muslims, whose traditions dictate the need for a prompt burial – ideally on the same day – and the avoidance of invasive autopsies wherever possible.
Her office has ruled that “no death shall be prioritised in any way,” but Trevor Asserson, a lawyer representing Stamford Hill’s Adath Yisroel Burial Society, said: “It amounts to a blanket and disproportionate refusal, in the exercise of your statutory powers, to respect the religious beliefs of those within your jurisdiction.”
Of Hassell, Dismore wrote: “One would have thought that before applying for the job, she might have reflected on the needs of one of the country’s biggest Jewish communities and our large and growing Muslim population.”
He added: “Our corner of London is amongst the most diverse in the country. Ms Hassell’s insensitive behaviour– probably unique in our local public services- flies in the face of harmonious community relations and cannot be tolerated any longer.”
Calling for her to be fired, Dismore said: “It is long overdue that she should go. The Lord Chancellor should sack her, if he cares about the reputation of our legal system.”