Senior Christian leader backs Jewish concerns over ‘cab rank’ burial policy

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Senior Christian leader backs Jewish concerns over ‘cab rank’ burial policy

Rt Revd Rob Wickham criticised coroner Mary Hassell's controversial policy, in which she refuses to prioritise religious burials

Rt Revd Rob Wickham
Rt Revd Rob Wickham

A senior Christian leader has backed Jewish and Muslim calls for a London coroner to fast-track the release of bodies for quicker burial for religious reasons when able.

The intervention from the Bishop of Edmonton, Rt Revd Rob Wickham, came a day before judges determine the legality of policies from the office of Mary Hassell, a senior coroner for Inner North London.

Hassell angered Jewish and Muslim families – who prioritise speedy burials for religious reasons – after confirming her “cab-rank rule” for releasing bodies. Her policy is this week being challenged in the High Court in a judicial review.

Ahead of the hearing, however, the Bishop of Edmonton appealed to Hassell to act in accordance with religious sensitivities.

“The death of a loved one usually brings much grief and vulnerability for any family and community… At these moments it is of great comfort when people are able to observe specific mourning and burial rites in accordance with their religious beliefs,” he said.

“On behalf of the different faith communities in the very diverse north London, I would hope that [Hassell] would be respectful of such religious practices and freedoms which ultimately enable the whole community to grieve well.”

Board of Deputies’ vice-president Marie van der Zyl said Wickham’s was “an important intervention,” adding: “While the Senior Coroner for Inner North London seems determined to cause unnecessary upset to grieving families, people of different faiths are coming together to call for a different approach of compassion and common sense that respects religious freedom and religious diversity.”

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