London Askanim Meet With Justice Minister to Discuss Kvod Hameis

A group of activists from the Jewish and Muslim communities of London met with several high-ranking members of parliament, including the Minister of Justice, to discuss recent concerns relating to forced autopsies and delayed burials.

In recent months, Mary Hassel, the coroner (the UK equivalent of the medical examiner) for central London, has clashed with the Jewish community on several occasions by refusing to allow for digital scans in place of invasive autopsies, as well as doing away with “out-of-hours” service that has delayed many burials.

Last February, Rabbi Mordechai Twersky, z”l, was niftar on a Thursday. However, a lack of cooperation from the coroner’s office delayed the levayah until the coming Monday.

After experiencing several such incidents, representatives of the community pressed for a Judicial Review, which they hope will resolve the matter. It is scheduled for July 28.

The meeting was an attempt to work with legislators to avoid legal proceedings.

“It would be preferable for Government to take a lead on such matters, which deal with the basic human right to practice one’s religion,” said Trevor Asserson, an attorney who has represented askanim in clashes with the coroner. “If they fail to do so we will have to take the matter to Court.”

The meeting, which took place Tuesday, was attended by Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Michael Grove and Caroline Dinenge, Minister of Equalities.

“There is a willingness across London to try and work together in order to secure an effective out-of-hours service,” said Grove, “[and] [f]or the coroner service itself to become more modern and more digital in order to make sure that things were more efficiently and more technically in an up-to-date manner”.

Mr. Asserson presented the concerns of the Jewish community.   Maulana Yunus Dudhwala, Multifaith Manager, Newham University Hospital NHS Trust, and Councillor Abdul Hai, Cabinet Member for Customers, Communities and Culture, Camden Council, spoke on behalf of the Muslim communities.

Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, former head of the United Synagogue beis din, and Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, Prinicpal of Yesodei Hatorah Schools, as well as several askanim were in attendance.