Crematoriums could make child remembrance areas

Elish Angiolini report due on Wednesday. Pic :Neil Hanna
Elish Angiolini report due on Wednesday. Pic :Neil Hanna
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COUNCILS may be ordered to ensure crematoriums create dedicated areas of remembrance for deceased children in the wake of the Mortonhall ashes scandal.

The requirement is one of the recommendations reportedly included in the report of former High Court judge Lord Bonomy’s report into the cremation of infant remains.

Other measures said to be proposed in the report include changes in the law to ensure babies’ ashes are treated in the same way as those of adults and a national memorial for children whose remains were never returned to their parents.

Lord Bonomy’s report is due to published after the findings of a separate inquiry led by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini are made public on Wednesday.

In 2012, the Evening News revealed that for years parents of babies who were stillborn or died soon after birth had been told there were no ashes left after cremation, but in fact their ashes had been buried in Mortonhall’s garden of remembrance without parents’ knowledge.

The city council appointed Dame Elish to investigate the Mortonhall scandal and her report is now with chief executive Sue Bruce.

Lord Bonomy was asked by the Scottish Government to chair a commission looking into any changes needed at national level in the wake of the scandal.

The government today said it could not comment on reports of what might be included in his recommendations.

Sources also rejected claims that Lord Bonomy’s report was planned to be published on the same day as Dame Elish’s.

Lawyers acting for the grieving families said changes in the law to safeguard against similar scandals in future were to be welcomed, but proposed reforms should not overshadow the truth of the “appalling” practices which had existed.

Patrick McGuire, partner at Thompsons solicitors, which represents many of those affected by the ashes scandal, said: “Of course we would welcome such proposals, but these provide scant consolation to the families who have already lost a child, and whose remains have been disposed of in an arbitrary and indifferent manner.

“Depending on the findings of Dame Elish Angiolini’s report, it may be that a public inquiry into the appalling treatment at Mortonhall Crematorium is the only chance of getting answers.”

Dorothy Maitland, operations director of the Stillborn and Neonatal Death Society (Sands) Lothians, and one those affected, said: “There will be a lot of parents who may not get any answers. We don’t know where it’s going to leave us.”

Initial recommendations from Lord Bonomy last November included the idea of a national memorial and new standard procedures for recording infant cremations.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Lord Bonomy’s report is expected to follow the publication of Dame Elish Angiolini’s Mortonhall Investigation report and we will consider the need for any further action, including the need for any change to legislation, in the light of both their findings.”