Mary Hassell, the Senior Coroner who covers Inner North London, has withdrawn a controversial decision just one day before she would have had to defend it in court against an application for judicial review brought by a bereaved Jewish family.
Ms Hassell, who is well known in the Jewish community for her past controversial campaign to delay Jewish and Muslim burials in contravention of religious practice, has been caught up in yet another legal dispute turning on Jewish religious sensibilities.
As late as last week, Ms Hassell had insisted on carrying out a full invasive autopsy on an Orthodox Jewish woman, despite objections by the family on religious grounds that there should be no unnecessary desecration of a human body after death and burial should take place as soon as possible. But she has now changed her mind, on the eve of the hearing due to take place today.
In the meantime, her actions have caused anguish and distress to the grieving family, given that the cause of death was established by relevant medical practitioners as injuries sustained from a fall. Ms Hassell nevertheless wished to conduct an autopsy to determine whether the deceased had been “pushed”, despite the police having ruled out any suspicion of murder or any third-party involvement and notwithstanding that an invasive autopsy would in any event be very unlikely to prove whether the deceased had been pushed.
Trevor Asserson, acting for the claimant, said: “The present case would have almost certainly found her to have been discriminatory and irrational again.”
Mr Assersion was alluding to Ms Hassell’s track record of bad decisions struck down by the High Court for being discriminatory, irrational and wrongful.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “Mary Hassell seems to be making a habit of needless interventions that impede grieving Jewish families from laying their dead to rest. How many times must bereaved Jews have to take her to court, and how much of local taxpayers’ money she will have to lose before she simply respects Jewish and other religious burial practices as coroners around the country already do. Several years ago, after she insisted on delaying Jewish burials, we called on Ms Hassell to resign. We repeat that call today.
“We commend the legal team who have brought this just conclusion about, and urge other victims of Ms Hassell’s gratuitous stubbornness to continue to come forward and seek redress for their loved ones rather than accept arbitrary or discriminatory decisions.”
The claimant was represented by Sam Grodzinski QC and Ben Tankel, instructed by Asserson Law Offices.