A coroner due to defend her actions at the High Court claims religious Jews bullied and harassed her after she ordered post-mortem examinations over other methods to investigate cause of death.
Senior coroner for Inner North London, Mary Hassell, made the claims in a letter seen by a national newspaper, as an increasingly fraught dispute saw her criticised for denying the right of observant Jews to be buried in accordance with Jewish law.
Observant Jews must be buried before nightfall on the day of death and with their body intact, something Jewish leaders say has always been respected. “Historically, Jews have relied on the goodwill of coroners who, for the most part, have been at pains to respect the wishes of the family where possible,” said Rabbi Avraham Pinter, speaking for the Charedi community.
However, in a letter to her managers at Camden Council, Hassell asks for support and protection “from bullying, intimidation and the threat of violence”.
It comes after a Jewish family who wanted a family member to have a scan instead of a surgical post-mortem last month won the right to a judicial review in the High Court.
The judges’ ruling could give religious families the right to demand a high-tech scan to determine cause of death rather than the traditional method.
Board of Deputies’ vice-president Jonathan Arkush said: “A judicial review of the decision not to allow the scan needs to be heard so other Jewish families will not be confronted with similar problems.”