Two London MPs and the leader of Camden Council have said they “fundamentally disagree” with Senior Coroner Mary Hassell’s approach to quick burials for religious reasons.
Sir Keir Starmer, Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras, joined forces with Tulip Siddiq, Labour’s MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, in a joint letter with Camden leader Cllr Georgia Gould.
In it, the three ask that Hassell “reviews her position” in relation to releasing bodies promptly where possible, which – alongside the issue of invasive autopsies – has riled Jewish community representatives.
The trio’s letter was written to Sidney Sinitsky of the Adath Yiroel Burial Society and Mohamed Omer from the Gardens of Peace Islamic Cemetery in Ilford, acknowledging “hundreds” of emails from constituents calling for Hassell to go.
Outlining their efforts to reach a mutually-acceptable resolution, the politicians said the current stumbling block revolved around the resources needed to release bodies early on weekends and bank holidays where possible.
“Coroner Hassell maintains that there are a number of significant additional things she would need to have in place to be able to provide this service,” they say. “We fundamentally do not agree with this position.”
They added: “To find a way forward, we have asked Senior Coroner Hassell to review her position.”
Camden Council’s chief executive is in dialogue with the Chief Coroner, despite it being only the Lord Chancellor who has the power to dismiss Hassell, whose Inner London area covers Hackney, Tottenham, Camden and Islington.
Jewish leaders have repeatedly asked for quicker release of bodies and non-invasive autopsy techniques such as MRI scans, where possible, but feel they have not been met halfway by Hassell, leading the Board of Deputies to call for her ouster.