The Coroner’s Service covering Harrow, Brent, Barnet, Haringey and Enfield is to get an evening and weekend provision for dealing with urgent matters, in a move heralded by a large Jewish burial society.
North London Senior Coroner Andrew Walker announced the out-of-hours service for the Northern District of Greater London on Wednesday, saying urgent requests could now be dealt with between 10.00 and 12.00 on Saturdays and Sunday.
The extra service follows a high-profile legal ruling against Inner North London Senior Coroner Mary Hassell earlier this year, in which she was told that failing to prioritise the release of bodies on religious grounds was discriminatory.
Hassell’s jurisdiction covers Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets and has previously had to withdraw an out-of-hours service owing to a lack of resources.
A spokesperson for Adath Yisroel Burial Society, which successfully challenged Hassell’s notorious “cab-rank rule” policy for releasing bodies, said the news of extended hours in a neighbouring jurisdiction would be cheered by Jewish families.
“Faith groups will be reassured to hear this announcement of a new service from the London North Coroner’s Service,” said Shlome Sinitsky. “We welcome this move, knowing that grieving families will be comforted by this. We are grateful to the Coroner Mr Walker for his sensitivity and understanding.”
In his written guidance to Coroners following the High Court judgement, Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC wrote: “In many coroner areas, there is no general provision of services outside of office hours… which depend on resources being made available by funding authorities.”
Walker’s North London Coroner’s Service has been praised for its innovative measures, including audio recording all inquest proceedings, offering a CT Scan as an alternative to an invasive autopsy, launching a Coroner’s referral form available to all GPs on the NHS database, and providing a dedicated enquiries team.
Barnet Councillor Dean Cohen told Jewish News: “I welcome this news, which comes not long after Barnet commenced providing a 365 days a year registrar service. I would like to personally thank Mr Walker and indeed Mr Sinitsky who were both instrumental in bringing this about. I hope the inner London’s corroner’s office will now follow suit.”
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