Legal challenge launched against controversial coroner Mary Hassell
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Legal challenge launched against controversial coroner Mary Hassell

Lawyers representing Adath Yisroel Burial Society claim the controversial official is 'either ignorant of the law or ignoring it' over her stance on burials

Mary Hassell

Credit: Faith Matters
Mary Hassell Credit: Faith Matters

Lawyers representing an Orthodox burial society have launched a judicial review in the High Court against a senior London coroner who has angered the Jewish community over her approach to burials and autopsies.

The latest move adds to pressure on the Lord Chancellor to take action against Mary Hassell, senior coroner for Inner London, whose district includes Hackney, Camden, Tottenham and Islington.

Trevor Asserson, the lawyer acting for Adath Yisroel Burial Society, said this week that Hassell was “either ignorant of the law or ignoring it,” after the Board of Deputies and Chief Rabbi this week backed calls for her to go.

Jewish groups have asked for speedy burial and non-invasive autopsies where possible, but Hassell has been clear that “no death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family,” describing the policy as a “cab‑rank” rule.

A number of meetings have been held with Jewish representatives, most recently with the Board of Deputies, but no mutually-amicable solution has been found, leading Asserson to challenge Hassell’s policy.

The London lawyer said the main objection is that “it breaches the human rights of certain faiths to practice their religion by burying their dead promptly”.

He said: “Where the Coroner can release a person’s body promptly to their family, when there is a religious need to do so, and the release can be effected without disadvantaging other families then the Coroner should do so.”

On average, families in the UK wait just over two weeks between death and burial or cremation, whereas for observant Jewish and Muslim families prioritise prompt burial, ideally the same day.

The judicial review application will be presented in the High Court by Sam Grodzinski QC, a leading human rights barrister, along with Khawar Qureshi QC, a leading commercial and international law silk and Benjamin Tankel, a specialist human rights barrister.

Asserson said: “Diversity means making allowance for the particular needs of different groups where those needs can be easily accommodated. Ms Hassell does not seem to understand that and seems determined either to remain ignorant of the law or to ignore it.”

Help perform the greatest mitzvah: save a life

While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.

That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.

We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.

Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”

read more:
comments