Cab rank coroner service not good enough – Councillor Abdul Hai

Councillor Abdul Hai, Cabinet Member for Young People and Cohesion said:

“Two weeks ago I called for Mary Hassell, Senior Coroner for inner north London to leave her post and move to an area with fewer faith sensitivities. This is not something I would ever do lightly but the truth of the matter is that her position has now become untenable.

“Camden along with Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets – all served by Ms Hassell – are home to some of the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in the country. In this day and age it’s completely unacceptable to dismiss the cultural concerns of any community that you serve. I’ve seen a great willingness within local government, healthcare services, police, fire services, as well as across many businesses and the voluntary sector, to proudly serve the needs of their communities and their customers. Why should this be any different for the Coroner? What is it about this service that sets it apart from everything else? It’s a service that should be there to play its part guiding families through the most difficult of times – the death of a loved one.

“Inner North London desperately needs a coroner who really understands diversity, ethnicity and the cultural requirements of these communities. But it’s not only about understanding - and I’m sure Ms Hassell does understand - it’s about behaviour, actions and service. Ms Hassell operates and refers to her ‘Cab Rank Rule’ queue system. The insensitivity of this beggars belief – we don’t want a Cab Rank Coroner. Ms Hassell is a public servant and the service she is providing is unacceptable to the communities in which she operates.

“In any other service this would mean only one thing – change.

“Since my initial response there has been a groundswell of support from across the political spectrum, both locally and nationally, along with calls from a diverse range of groups and organisations for Ms Hassell to leave her post for the benefit of thousands of residents.

“I’m also calling for the Ministry of Justice to review coroner services to ensure that local service fit the needs of the communities that they serve. I know that communities in other areas of London get a much better, more appropriate service. The MoJ needs to ensure that service levels aren’t dictated by the views and at the whim of an individual coroner, rather by a set of standards that consider individual communities.”

“We need to ensure that such an important and sensitive service has a formal and structured approach to guarantee the service provided to grieving families.

“My five asks of the Ministry of Justice are as follows:

  1. Out-of-Hours and weekend service - Improved availability to provide service in a formal and structured way to deliver certainty to communities rather than be left to whim of an individual coroner
  2. National Charter/Statutory guidance/Legislation change - on cultural issues and service quality;
  3. Culture Change - Improved customer focussed culture making the service more accessible, customer friendly and accommodating of the diversity of community requirements;
  4. Accountability: Ensure judicial accountability which is less remote for the lay person;
  5. Non-invasive post mortem techniques - Learn from projects in Salford and Bolton using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans on religious grounds; an improvement that requires further urgent exploration.


The consortium of local authorities within inner north London area has agreed to provide the appropriate level of resources to allow the coroner service to be delivered out of hours. This has been rejected.