The body of an Orthodox Jewish man who died on Monday has been released for burial after community leaders and lawyers appeared to renew hostilities with Inner North London Coroner Mary Hassell.
It follows a letter of complaint from the Board of Deputies to Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft about the case of Rabbi Bobby Hill, alleging that his family’s distress had been “exacerbated by Ms Hassell’s conduct”.
It stirred bad memories, after Adath Yisroel Burial Society went to court in 2018 to challenge Hassell’s “cab-rank rule” for releasing bodies, despite some families placing the upmost importance on speedy burial for religious reasons.
The Board’s letter this week noted the “poor nature of Ms Hassell’s service to the Jewish community” in the past while saying Hill’s case was “deeply disappointing” with the family’s distress “exacerbated by Ms Hassell’s conduct”.
Van der Zyl alleges that Hassell was “discourteous” in not meeting Hill’s family, challenges Hassell’s alleged claim that her office is under-staffed, and criticises Hassell for giving no “fixed indication” as to when Hill’s body may be released.
The Board’s letter further alleges that Hill’s family waited in Hassell’s office “the whole day” and “offered assistance to speed up the process”.
Van der Zyl tells Lucraft that “there has since been an exchange of letters, where Ms Hassell has indicated that Mr Hill’s report of death will be given a priority position, but given no fixed indication of when the case may be dealt with”.
The Board letter further states that Hassell “claimed that correspondence from lawyers for the Hill family, their local MP and other supporters was also preventing her attending to the case itself, which has led us to write directly to you”.
In his response, Lucraft said coroners were independent and that he could not intervene in individual cases, but acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic had put extra strain on all public services, in particular coroners’ offices.
“Coroners, like others, are under significant pressure on a number of fronts because of the pandemic, as are the public authorities and others who provide them with staff and resources,” he said.
Hassell has been contacted for comment.