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Funeral director is latest to slam coroner’s ‘delays’

Claims attempts to organise Muslim burial faced a ‘brick wall’

26 January, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Issa Assam: ‘You face a brick wall with what is happening. It causes a lot of distress and we want him buried as quickly as possible, then three days down the line, they haven’t started the procedures’

A FUNERAL director says he faced a “brick wall” at the coroner’s court as he tried to arrange the burial of a Muslim man.

Issa Assam’s concerns come amid ongoing criticism of coroner Mary Hassell from Jewish and Muslim families who claim religious requirements for swift burials after death are being held up.

Islington Council leader Richard Watts this week wrote to Town Hall cabinet member Councillor Abdul Hai, sharing concerns that Ms Hassell, based at St Pancras Coroner’s Court “is not showing the necessary regard for ethic and religious sensitivities”.

Mr Assam, who owns Al-Janaza Islamic Funeral Directors, is co-ordinating arrangements for the funeral of Saleem Hariff, 46, who died at his home in Hornsey Street, Holloway on Sunday afternoon. He would have celebrated his 47th birthday yesterday (Thursday).

Coroner Mary Hassell

Mr Assam said he had to wait until Wednesday evening to find out whether his paperwork had been processed by the coroner, despite contacting the office by phone and email every day since Monday and visiting the court on Tuesday.

He told the Tribune: “There has been no communication to the coroners to myself or the family. You face a brick wall with what is happening. It causes a lot of distress and we want him buried as quickly as possible, then three days down the line, they haven’t started the procedures.

“When your loved one is buried then only then the grieving can start. Your life is on hold.”

Coroners are tasked with establishing the cause and circumstances surrounding deaths with unanswered questions.

The cause of Mr Hariff’s death is not yet known and it is expected an MRI scan will now be undertaken on Monday, Mr Assam said.

Mr Assam, who said he has also had positive experiences with the court, approached Cllr Hai for help.

He added: “I’m not asking for fast-track, don’t get me wrong. I’m asking for what is right. We didn’t know what was happening.”

Islington Council leader Richard Watts

Earlier this month, Cllr Hai called for Ms Hassell, who investigates deaths in Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets, to resign.

However, once appointed, only the Lord Chancellor with the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice, can remove a coroner.

Cllr Watts said in his letter to Cllr Hai: “I welcome efforts to raise concerns with the senior coroner to the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor. North London’s Jewish and Muslim communities deserve to feel secure that the final wishes of their loved ones can be carried out, without obstruction caused by a complete lack of sensitivity.”

The coroner’s office said it could not comment on individual cases.

However, in a letter written by Ms Hassell, obtained by the Tribune, she states she is “very familiar with the Jewish and Muslim religions’ teachings” and “always take these into account”.

She added: “There is a difference between being sensitive to faith wishes, and prioritising one person over another because of their religion.

“The coronial area of Inner North London contains the greatest concentration of Orthodox Jewish people in Europe, and the office of HM Coroner is here to serve that community, but not only that community.”


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