PM appears to back community’s concerns over coroner Mary Hassell at PMQs
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PM appears to back community’s concerns over coroner Mary Hassell at PMQs

Theresa May says it's 'important to take into account specific requirements' of religious groups when they're mourning

Mary Hassell

Credit: Faith Matters
Mary Hassell Credit: Faith Matters

Theresa May appeared to back the Jewish community in its battle against a London coroner at Prime Minister’s Questions this week, saying faith-based considerations were “important”.

May was asked about Senior Coroner Mary Hassell, whose area includes Hackney, Camden, Tottenham and Islington, after Jewish leaders had repeatedly called on her to be sacked by Lord Chancellor David Gauke.

The point was raised in the House of Commons on Wednesday by Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti, who said Jewish and Muslim communities wanted the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to “specifically take into account people’s faith considerations, as in their faith loved ones must be buried with 24 hours”.

May said: “It is important that we take into account specific requirements of someone’s faith, especially when they have lost a loved one and are grieving.”

Theresa May

She continued: “I know that although, as he will be aware, coroners are independent judicial office, I understand that the Ministry of Justice is speaking with the Chief Coroner to see what more can be done, and I’m sure the Lord Chancellor will be happy to meet and discuss this issue.”

The Board of Deputies recently joined an Orthodox burial society in Stamford Hill in calling for Hassell to go, after meetings failed to find a mutually-acceptable solution. Hassell has said bodies will not be released ahead of others for reasons of religion and that decisions on autopsies will also remain free from religious considerations.

The Board’s vice president Marie van der Zyl said: “We thank the Prime Minister for her intervention on faith-sensitive coroner services today and we are happy that the Government is taking the issue seriously.”

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