London

Jewish leaders call on Inner North London coroner to quit

St Pancras Coroner's Court Image copyright Google

Jewish leaders have called for the resignation of a coroner in north London in a dispute over delays in releasing bodies for burial.

Under Jewish and Islamic law, bodies must be buried on the day of death or as soon as possible afterwards.

But Mary Hassell has said she would not fast-track inquests based on religion.

Her jurisdiction includes parts of north London which are home to large communities of orthodox Jews and Muslims.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said they had a "deeply disappointing" meeting with the senior coroner for Inner North London.

Abdul Hai, councillor with responsibility for community cohesion in the London borough of Camden, has also called for Ms Hassell to quit.

'So traumatising'

The board's vice president, Marie Van Der Zyl, told BBC News: "It's disrupting family life to such an extent that people don't want to die within Inner London North.

"To say they don't want to die there, they're too frightened to die, is something that's so traumatising and so against Jewish values and indeed it affects Muslims as well.

"It's at the heart of both of our faiths for there to be speedy burial."

'Lost confidence'

Ms Van Der Zyl described the early release of bodies to those families who want it as "basic human rights" and added: "Not only is Ms Hassell failing to respect those rights, but she shows no inclination to do so.

"She has lost the confidence of the Jewish community, and appears to have no interest in winning it back."

Ms Hassell said, in response to a complaint, that "no death reported to my office will be prioritised over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family".

Judicial and council officials refused to respond to the allegations, and there was no response at St Pancras Coroner's court, where Ms Hassell works.

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