Un­der-fire coro­ner faces fur­ther crit­i­cism

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANIEL SUGARMAN

“Quis cus­todiet ip­sos cus­todies” — “who will guard the guards?”

Over the past few weeks, the JC has run a num­ber of sto­ries on Mary Has­sell, se­nior coro­ner for St Pan­cras Coro­ner’s Court, which has ju­ris­dic­tion over four Lon­don coun­cils.

Ms Has­sell’s state­ment that “no death will be pri­ori­tised in any way over any other be­cause of the re­li­gion of the de­ceased or fam­ily” has prompted sig­nif­i­cant con­cern among the Jewish com­mu­nity liv­ing in ar­eas she has au­thor­tiy over.

Her pol­icy is a prob­lem not just for Jews, but for Mus­lims too — both groups are re­quired to bury their dead as soon as pos­si­ble.

She is also said to have ig­nored a pro­to­col which al­lowed Jewish bod­ies to be guarded be­fore burial — an­other re­quire­ment within Ju­daism.

Ac­cord­ing to the le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Adath Yis­roel Burial So­ci­ety (AYBS), these mea­sures are “un­law­ful”. The JC has called for her re­moval and the AYBS, which is at the end of its tether, also wants her to be dis­missed

But the JC’s search for an an­swer to the ques­tion of who has the power to dis­miss a se­nior coro­ner il­lus­trates the dif­fi­culty in hold­ing Ms Has­sell to ac­count.

Lo­cal coun­cils get a say in de­cid­ing on the ap­point­ment of a se­nior coro­ner. But once hired, if that coro­ner does not prove to be up to the stan­dard re­quired, no coun­cil has the power to dis­miss them.

What about the Chief Coro­ner for Eng­land and Wales, who is head of the coro­ner sys­tem and pro­vides na­tional lead­er­ship for coroners? The post is cur­rently held by Judge Mark Lu­craft QC.

In a state­ment to the JC, Judge Lu­craft’s of­fice said that “the Chief Coro­ner does not have any power in re­la­tion to dis­ci­plin­ing or re­mov­ing coroners from of­fice. That power rests with the Lord Chief Jus­tice and the Lord Chan­cel­lor.”

The Lord Chief Jus­tice is head of the ju­di­ciary — since last Oc­to­ber, the role has been held by Lord Bur­nett of Mal­don. The Lord Chan­cel­lor is a mem­ber of the gov­ern­ment, with a cabi­net po­si­tion — cur­rently David Lid­ing­ton MP, who is also the Jus­tice Sec­re­tary.

Any de­ci­sion by them to re­move a coro­ner would only oc­cur af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Ju­di­cial Con­duct In­ves­ti­ga­tions Of­fice.

Ac­cord­ing to the JCIO, any of­fi­cial com­plaint against a coro­ner has to be made within three months of an in­ci­dent. The JCIO con­firms that it “may in­ves­ti­gate a coro­ner’s be­hav­iour fol­low­ing any com­plaint or com­plaints” sub­mit­ted to them. “If the com­plaint is up­held it is for the Lord Chan­cel­lor and Lord Chief Jus­tice to con­sider what sanc­tion is nec­es­sary. “Fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion which re­sults in the Lord Chan­cel­lor and Lord Chief Jus­tice find­ing that mis­con­duct has oc­curred, the de­ci­sion as to the ap­pro­pri­ate sanc­tion (in­clud­ing dis­missal) is a mat­ter for them to de­cide jointly.”

The JCIO said as yet it had “not re­ceived any com­plaints in re­la­tion to the is­sues raised” re­gard­ing Ms Has­sell. Re­search by the JC failed to fine a pre­vi­ous ex­am­ple of a se­nior coro­ner be­ing dis­missed in such a way. A coro­ner for Brad­ford re­signed in the mid­dle of a JCIO in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his con­duct 2014.

In 2012, as­sis­tant coro­ner Suzanne Green­away, who presided in the Amy Wine­house case, re­signed af­ter it emerged she did not have the ap­pro­pri­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Coroners must be lawyers reg­is­tered in the UK for five years, which Ms Green­away was not. Ms Has­sell re­ceived a rep­ri­mand from the JCIO in 2016 con­cern­ing an­other case in­volv­ing the Jewish com­mu­nity, but the mat­ter was clearly not seen to be se­ri­ous enough to war­rant dis­missal.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

David Lid­ing­ton, the Lord Chan­cel­lor

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