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Judicial review granted into senior coroner’s ‘cab-rank’ system

PUBLISHED: 09:54 02 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:28 02 February 2018

Mary Hassell is the senior coroner for inner north London coroners' court. Picture credit: Archant.

Mary Hassell is the senior coroner for inner north London coroners' court. Picture credit: Archant.

Archant

A judge has given the go-ahead for a judicial review into how deaths are dealt with by the senior coroner for Inner North London, Mary Hassell.

In an unusual move, Judge Holman granted permission for a judicial review without waiting for a response from Ms Hassell.

The row had broken out between Ms Hassell and the Adath Yisrael Burial Society (AYBS) in October after she had stopped prioritising religious burials. The decision has sparked criticism in recent weeks.

Ms Hassell is now operating a ‘cab-rank’ system, where deaths are dealt with on a first come, first served basis.

Under Jewish and Islamic law, bodies must be buried on the day of death or as soon as possible afterwards. Both faiths also view invasive post-mortems as desecration, preferring CT body scans.

Last week Camden MPs Keir Starmer, and Tulip Siddiq, as well as Camden Council leader Georgia Gould wrote to England and Wales’ chief coroner, Judge Mark Lucraft, with their concerns.

The Inner North London area covers Camden, Islington, Tower Hamlets and Hackney. Camden acts as the lead borough for the area.

Judge Holman said the claim: “clearly raises issues of considerable importance to the Jewish and Muslim communities.”

The decision of the review will create a precedent for how the coroners treat out-of-hours deaths for the whole of England and Wales.

A date for the hearing, which the chief coroner has to attend, has not been set.

Spokesman for ABYS, Asher Gratt, said: “Ms Hassell has already lost several injunctions and a judicial review, and has also been disciplined by the Judicial Conduct Investigation Office but she simply carries on with her unhelpful and rigid conduct. For four and a half years she has now been out of touch in meeting the needs of this diverse community and we hope that the judicial review will finally bring it to a close in allowing grieving families to bury their loved ones with dignity and compassion.”

Trevor Asserson, the solicitor working on behalf of AYBS, said: “Given the unusual speed with which the Court has given permission for the judicial review to go forward, the decision to join the chief coroner, and the other comments by the Judge, it is clear that the Court recognises both the importance of the case and the need to deal with it promptly.”

Ms Hassell has declined to comment.

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