The Chief Coroner said under-fire coroner Mary Hassell’s “cab-rank” rule of releasing bodies for burial was “excellent” – before changing his mind two weeks ago.
The comments came in an “Addendum” lodged last week by Hassell, the senior coroner for Inner London, in her fight against lawyers representing an Orthodox burial society, who she has called “bullies”.
In his legal submission to a judicial review of Hassell’s stance, set for later this month, Chief Coroner Judge Mark Lucraft described Hassell’s conduct as “over-rigid”, “not capable of rational justification” and “not lawful”.
Hassell has now submitted correspondence between them before she published her protocol, showing how he told her that it was “excellent”.
Lucraft, in a response to Hassell’s revelation, said he “misinterpreted” her protocol and has since taken specialist legal advice which prompted his U-turn.
In a press release, the law firm representing the Orthodox burial society seeking to challenge Hassell’s position said she was “trying to blame [the] Chief Coroner and the Jews for her own unlawful conduct”.
Trevor Asserson this week gave an uncompromising statement on the coroner, saying Hassell’s position was becoming “more untenable by the minute”. He went on to describe her as “stubborn,” “irrational” and “ignorant of the law”.
On Hassell submitting Lucraft’s original judgement of her position, Asserson accused her of “hiding behind correspondence” and “washing dirty laundry in public, showing yet further lack of judgment”. He denied his firm’s behaviour was bullying.
Asher Gratt, speaking on behalf of The Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS), said: “The tone of the correspondence emerging from Ms Hassell, as well as her conduct, make us fear that she has no real interest in accommodating the deeply held religious beliefs of the Jewish and Muslim communities.”
He added: “We are becoming increasingly concerned that bereaved families will continue to suffer – adding anguish and distress because of Ms Hassell’s rigid and inflexible policies.”