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Jewish society demands removal of London coroner over burial delays

A Jewish burial service has called for the removal of senior London coroner after a number of Jewish families complained about the delay of burials.

The Guardian reported that the Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS) made an official complaint against senior coroner for inner north London, Mary Hassell.

Hassell was accused of causing “anguish and trauma” and it was said that “many of her imposed rules, bureaucracy, inflexibility and unnecessary delays offend traditional and/or religious practices”.

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In December, the Jewish Chronicle reported that a woman made 210 calls to Hassell’s office after she was told that her father would be buried four days after his death. Hassell told her that instead, it would take two weeks for an autopsy to be carried out.

According to Jewish and Muslim burial rites, bodies of the deceased must be buried as soon after death as possible, preferably on the same day.

After a number of similar complaints from different families, Hassell wrote to Jewish community leaders saying that “no death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family, either by coroner’s officers or coroners.” She also claimed that members of her staff had been “bullied or intimidated”.

The letter also said that Hassell would no longer allow Jewish bodies to be held at local Jewish funeral homes, where those who practice the faith can carry out shemirah, the act of a body being guarded by fellow Jews rather than being held at a mortuary.

Hassell’s office said it was unable to provide further comment.

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