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Mortonhall Scandal: Parents call in the lawyers

Mortonhall Crematorium

Mortonhall Crematorium

A LEGAL firm dealing with Mortonhall Crematorium scandal complaints is juggling about 24 separate inquiries ahead of an expected joint compensation claim being lodged in court.

Glasgow-based Thompsons Solicitors launched a free legal helpline last Wednesday for grieving families seeking answers over why they were not offered ashes from baby cremations carried out at the Howdenhall Road facility.

Firm partner Patrick McGuire confirmed an unnamed charity had been among those who had called up for legal information.

He said: “We’ve had dozens of calls. We’ve also had a charity contact us as well. There seems to be a lot of people requiring assistance.

“People are just phoning in this instance really just to chat through their situation. Our role is to start the ball rolling, to give them some advice, give them some ideas. It’s still very, very early in the process.

“Sometime when you see just how many people these situations touch and affect, it gives you an idea of the whole human side of it.”

Mr McGuire said none of the two dozen inquiries the firm had received to date had decided to take legal action yet, but added: “We’ve spent a lot of time researching this over the past couple of days. That research, together with the information we’re receiving, certainly it’s making a compelling case. There’s a legal case to be made out here . There’ll be conversations we’ll be having over the next couple of weeks. What I can say is there’s a lot of pain, there’s a lot of hurt and people are looking for answers. When people are affected that way, they tend to look into [compensation] avenues.”

It’s been estimated a seven- figure compensation claim is possible – with cases expected to be fought on a human rights basis. Thompsons believes the sheer number of claimants could result in a claim for multi-millions, should the fight be successful.

Meanwhile, Ian and Charleen Waite, of Inch, have become the latest parents to go public in their search for answers over the remains of their stillborn daughter. Mrs Waite was forced to terminate a pregnancy at 23 weeks in 2010 after a medical diagnosis by Edinburgh Royal Infirmary staff revealed their daughter had contracted a terminal brain disease and would not survive birth.

Mr Waite, 49, said they had been told by crematorium officials their daughter’s body was too small to produce any ashes following the child’s cremation at Mortonhall. But Jason Lee, a technical engineer with 
Furnace Construction Company which services Mortonhall’s cremators, told the News last week that there “should always be ashes” left over from baby cremations.

Mr Waite said: “We did what the hospital wanted us to do – we had a cremation at Mortonhall, and that’s when we were told you can’t get any ashes because there aren’t any. We’ve gone through a terrible time to just about getting over it now then be hit by it all over again. It’s so raw, it’s unbelievable.

“I want to know why it’s happened. It’s just so inhumane. These people should be jailed as far as I’m concerned.”

Mr Waite has contacted the council’s dedicated helpline for aggrieved families caught up in the Mortonhall scandal.

He said they had taken his name, address and phone number before promising to be back in touch after the council investigation was completed – a response he labelled as poor. Mr Waite said he is prepared to take legal action if necessary, but not because he wanted money for the suffering he and his 28-year-old wife had faced. “I don’t want any financial compensation,” he said. “I just want to get to the end of it. I want to find out what’s been going on, why it’s been going on.”

The legal inquiries come after city council chiefs announced head of schools and community services, Mike Rosendale, would front an investigation into Mortonhall’s practices.

HOW IT WORKS FOR PET OWNERS

PET owners who have their animals cremated can receive urns containing ashes.

Alexander Baxter, owner of iCare Pet Crematorium, based in West Calder, West Lothian, said even the corpse of the smallest animal - like a hamster or ferret – would produce ashes after cremation and couldn’t understand why a crematorium couldn’t provide babies’ ashes for parents.

He said: “I don’t think I have ever cremated any animal when ashes could not be returned. I don’t understand how anyone could say there could not be any ashes to return from a cremation.

“You will always get something. If the baby was stillborn it might have soft bones but you would think there would still be some ashes. It just doesn’t evaporate into nothing.

“I don’t buy that there was nothing there. Even with the smallest animal we get something. We have done hamsters and ferrets – and there’s always ashes.”

QUESTION TIME

Sands Lothians will be holding an open evening at 7pm on Thursday for parents affected by the scandal. It will be attended by Edinburgh City Council senior environmental officer Andrew Mackay, who will be on hand to field questions. The charity’s offices can be found at the Craiglockhart Centre, 177 Colinton Road, Edinburgh.

 

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