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Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry criticise coroner Mary Hassell for failure to prioritise religious burials

PUBLISHED: 16:34 12 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:57 13 February 2018

A general view of the High Court on the Strand, London. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive

A general view of the High Court on the Strand, London. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Archive

PA Archive/PA Images

Islington MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry have written a joint letter calling coroner Mary Hassell’s refusal to prioritise religious burials “unacceptable”.

Their voices are added to a growing clamour for Ms Hassell’s removal. Islington Council leader Cllr Richard Watts has previously spoken out on the subject.

It comes days after a High Court judge ordered a judicial review into Ms Hassell’s decision to cancel a 2015 agreement. The covenant had allowed some Jewish people who die at home to be taken straight to the Mount Carmel funeral home in Stamford Hill so religious rituals can be observed.

But Ms Hassell late last year claimed the Stamford Hill’s Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS) had violated the agreement and harassed her staff – something the society denies.

Lord Justice Singh revealed late last week that the hearing will take place on March 27 and 28. It was set to be later this year, but the judge ordered it forward.

The MPs’ letter to chief coroner Judge Mark Lucraft, also jointly signed by Cllr Watts, reads: “The death of a loved one is a tragic event, as we know Coroner Hassell will understand. We find it unacceptable that people who are dealing with such loss are also experiencing unnecessary delays and barriers to laying their loved ones to rest as a result of her position.

“Coroner Hassell’s approach goes against our Jewish and Muslim residents’ faith and is preventing them from grieving for their lost loved ones.

“We regret that Coroner Hassell’s conduct as senior coroner to date has caused significant upset and undue trauma for people who are already suffering so much and simply want to grieve.”

Inner north London coroner Ms Hassell covers Islington, Camden, Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

She is now operating a “cab-rank” system, where deaths are dealt with on a first come, first served basis. The Jewish and Muslim faiths attach special importance to the length of time between death and burial and representatives say Ms Hassell’s decision has left families unable to properly grieve.

She has until March 2 to give any evidence to the court justifying her decision.

Asher Gratt, of AYBS, said: “We are grateful to the court for recognising the pressing need for this judicial review application to be heard as soon as practicable and for taking appropriate steps. Every day that Coroner Hassell maintains her decision she increases the anguish and suffering caused to members of the Jewish and Muslim communities.”

Ms Hassell has not responded to requests for comment.

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