A clutch of senior London politicians have written to the Lord Chancellor David Gauke raising concerns about Inner London Senior Coroner Mary Hassell.
The signatories include Tottenham’s David Lammy MP, Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott, Bethnal Green and Bow representative Rushanara Ali, Ilford North MP Wes Streeting, and Hackney South and Shoreditch parliamentarian Meg Hillier. Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer is understood to have written separately, also expressing concerns.
In their hard-hitting letter to the Lord Chancellor, who alone has the power to dismiss Hassell, the five Labour MPs say the senior coroner has “refused to respect constituents’ religious beliefs and overlooked their particular needs”.
Religious Jewish and Muslim communities, whose traditions dictate a speedy burial, have been offended by what they see as Hassell’s insensitivity by imposing the so-called “cab-rank rule” when it comes to autopsies and releasing bodies.
“The imposition of this rule without any room for discretion – even in cases where families make a request for early release – has understandably been a source of distress,” the MPs wrote.
“Other coroners throughout the UK have a strong relationship with religious communities and work closely with them… Coroners in areas with large Jewish populations often offer a statutory ‘out-of-hours’ service and maintain strong contact with Jewish burial boards.”
The Stamford Hill-based Adath Yisrael Burial Society has been calling for Hassell to be sacked and last month demanded a judicial review, while the Board of Deputies has also called for her to be removed.
Requesting “an urgent meeting” with Gauke, the MPs said: “It is our strong belief that where cultural and religious needs can be met without disadvantaging others, they certainly should be.”
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