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Controversial senior coroner Mary Hassell releases new protocol for dealing with deaths following High Court defeat

PUBLISHED: 10:48 19 July 2018 | UPDATED: 15:17 19 July 2018

Senior coroner Mary Hassell outside Camden Town Hall. Picture: Polly Hancock

Senior coroner Mary Hassell outside Camden Town Hall. Picture: Polly Hancock

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The faith leader who successfully overturned senior coroner Mary Hassell’s “cab-rank” system has criticised her new draft policy to consider every death in inner north London for possible fast-tracking.

Rabbi Asher Gratt from the Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS) said Ms Hassell was “cunningly attempting to re-introduce through the back door her unlawful dogmatic ‘cab rank’ policy”.

Draft policy published in the wake of her High Court defeat by the Jewish burial society says Ms Hassell will triage cases first thing in the morning, and then prioritise them as necessary.

Reasons for fast-tracking burials could simply include a family asking to be dealt with more quickly; if the dead person is a child; or if there are religious or cultural reasons for an early burial.

Failing to take account of the latter is the reason Ms Hassell came unstuck last year. She withdrew an arrangement that had been in place since 2015 saying she would prioritise Jewish and Muslim people’s deaths – and found herself hauled before some of the country’s most senior judges accused of discrimination.

The action against Ms Hassell was brought by the Stamford Hill-based AYBS.

Rabbi Gratt said: “Why is she creating unnecessary road-blocks to consider every case for prioritisation and not just those who ask for it?

“She is clearly determined to continue causing irreparable hurt and offence to vulnerable bereaved families by pushing everyone into the fast-track lane so being prioritised becomes meaningless.”

He said he would back a policy where deaths are prioritised on request, after those who have been prioritised on legal grounds, such as homicides or organ transplants.

Other reasons to prioritise dealing with a person’s death include if they lived abroad, if they died in custody, or there are health and safety requirements.

How quickly the coroner’s officer can prepare a report will also be considered, as will the date of death.

The senior coroner also revealed St Pancras and Poplar coroner’s courts could be merged in the “not too distant future”.

The draft is more or less identical to what Mary Hassell told a public meeting two weeks ago she had been doing since losing the judicial review into her “cab-rank” procedure.

At the meeting, on July 5, she faced criticism for saying she would use a person’s name to identify whether they might be Jewish or Muslim and should therefore be considered a priority.

This was criticised by Camden councillor Jonathan Simpson, who was in attendance.

Ms Hassell’s remit covers deaths in Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

The coroner’s office is taking comments on the draft as part of the consultation. They can be sent to St Pancras Coroner’s Court, Camley Street, London, N1C 4PP. The deadline for submissions is August 1.

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