Coroners will work extra hours to speed up religious burials

24th Apr 2015

Justice Minister, Simon Hughes (r) met the Chief Coroner, Judge Peter Thornton to discuss on-call burial services for Muslim and Jewish communities

Elham Asaad Buaras

Coroners are to set up out-of-hours services after complaints from Muslim and Jewish communities that they face difficulties burying their dead within 24 hours.

The changes will for now apply to London but is likely to be extended across England and Wales. Some parts of the country, such as Bradford, have already introduced an on-call service after a ten-year campaign by the Muslim community.

The changes come after intervention by the Justice Minister, Simon Hughes, who met the Chief Coroner, Judge Peter Thornton, police representatives and figures from London councils, who had agreed to set up out-of-hours services in their respective areas from this month.

Sudden, violent, or unexplained deaths have to be reported to coroners, who then decide whether a post mortem examination is required.

Hughes said: “I have been alerted to this issue particularly in areas where there is a large Jewish or Muslim population.” The problem had arisen over the release of bodies in time for funerals to take place, as both religions require, as soon as possible after death.

Religious groups have expressed concern that coroners do not always agree to conduct scans at post mortems rather than autopsies, to establish the cause of death. Both Jewish and Muslim communities regard autopsies as desecration of the body.

The reforms are part of a wider package of measures that began in 2013 to reform the coroners’ service to match similar to those of doctors.

Hughes said: “The Government will do everything it can to encourage all coroners to make an out-of-hours service available and also to direct a less invasive post mortem where this is suitable and desired by the family.”

A spokesman for the Chief Coroner told The Muslim News, “The Chief Coroner has been working with Simon Hughes MP, local authorities and police on plans to improve out of hours coroner services in London.”

“There are already examples of good practice around the country. The Chief Coroner encourages coroners to assess the need for an out of hours services in their own local coroner area, and to discuss the issue with their local authorities, who fund the coroner service. ”

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