In a surprising and outspoken move, the Chief Coroner of England and Wales, Judge Mark Lucraft QC, has publicly opposed the decision of Mary Hassell, the Senior Coroner for Inner North London, to only deal with burials on a first-come, first-served “cab rank rule.”
Ms. Hassell has been engaged in a long, drawn-out controversy with the Jewish and Muslim communities in her area of jurisdiction over this issue, refusing to prioritize the requests of those families whose faith necessitates a speedy burial over those who do not mind waiting a little longer. The Adath Yisroel Burial Society (AYBS) applied for a judicial review of this policy, and the proceedings are due to take place at the end of the month.
When the judge, Mr. Justice Holman, granted permission for the judicial review to take place, he called on the Chief Coroner to attend, saying that “any decision in this case cannot be specific to Inner North London, but must clearly apply for the whole of England and Wales.” However, in an unprecedented step, Judge Lucraft made a submission to the court before the case, in which he described the protocol as “not lawful” and “not capable of rational justification.”
Trevor Asserson, founder of the London firm Asserson Law Offices, which is representing AYBS, said, “The support of the chief coroner is of huge importance. The chief coroner is a senior judge, and probably the most authoritative voice on criminal law in the U.K.”
The case has attracted national attention, with support for the Jewish and Muslim communities — and others affected — coming from across the political spectrum, and questions being asked in the House of Commons.
Lawyers for the AYBS have now written to Ms. Hassell, calling on her to “withdraw the protocol and to seek to reach agreement with our client of appropriate terms for the speedy resolution of this matter.”