A coroner based in north London is facing calls to resign after continuous complaints that she is causing unnecessary stress to bereaved Muslim and Jewish families by refusing to acknowledge religious requirements for burials.
Mary Hassell, senior coroner of the St Pancras Coroner's Court, is facing a second judicial review following complaints she is not prioritising the post mortems of Jews and Muslims, even though both religions demand bodies should buried as soon as possible after death.
Hassell instead opts for a "cab rank rule" which is effectively a first-come, first served service.
Hassell has defended her practice, insisting that "no death will be prioritised in any way over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family". This is despite the Ministry of Justice stating that coroners should taking into account "traditions and religious requirements" whenever possible when dealing with burials.
The boroughs which Hassell deals with at her coroner's court – including Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets – contain some of the largest Muslims and Jewish communities in the UK.
The Jewish burial society, Adath Yisrael Burial Society (AYBS), has now made an official complaint against Hassell over what they call an "unlawful" practice.
In a response to a legal letter sent by AYBS, seen by the Jewish Chronicle, Hassell wrote: "I do not agree that my protocol that no death reported to my office will be prioritised over any other because of the religion of the deceased or family is unlawful.
"There is a difference between being sensitive to faith wishes, and prioritising one person over another because of their religion."
Abdul Hai, a Labour member of Camden council's cabinet, said he is arranging a meeting with Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras, Sir Keir Starmer, to discuss the issue. Hai is reported to want Starmer to bring it up with the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor, who have the authority to dismiss a coroner.
Speaking to The Times, Hai suggested Hassell quit or move to an area with "less diversity". He added: "We need a coroner that understands the religious and cultural needs of residents."
Hassell was previously the subject of a judicial review in 2015 after the family of an Orthodox Jewish woman wanted to block Hassell ordering an invasive autopsy.
She lost the review in a landmark decision and an electronic scan was used to determine a cause of death.
Trevor Asserson, a solicitor who represented the family in the 2015, said: "Mary Hassell's conduct has so consistently upset the people she serves that one must wonder if she is suited to the post she holds."
A spokesperson for the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) said: "The JCIO can confirm it has received complaints against Mary Hassell, the North London coroner. These will be considered in accordance with the Judicial Discipline (Prescribed Procedures) Regulations 2014."