Mortonhall: War crimes judge probes baby ashes

The news comes in the wake of Edinburgh's MortonHall scandal. Picture: Toby Williams
The news comes in the wake of Edinburgh's MortonHall scandal. Picture: Toby Williams
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A SENIOR judge who presided over the war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has been appointed to head up a commission looking at the cremation of infants across Scotland in the wake of the Mortonhall scandal.

• Some crematoria have been disposing of baby ashes without parents’ knowledge.

• Investigation will be seperate from Dame Elish Angiolini Mortonhall probe.

Lord Bonomy will examine what lessons can be learned after it became clear that crematoria were taking different approaches to the disposal of ashes following cremation.

This included some in Edinburgh and Aberdeen disposing of ashes having previously told families that none remained after the procedure.

It is expected that the Commission will make recommendations by the end of the year.

The Scottish Government said it would determine how guidance and legislation can be updated to ensure consistent practice nationwide, and to ensure that all bereaved families receive the services, support and information they need.


Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson said: “I am confident that Lord Bonomy is the right person to take forward this important piece of work.

“The commission will look at the policies and procedures in place to ensure that wherever you are in the country, the same guidance is followed.

“Losing a child is a traumatic experience and families should have confidence that the correct processes and practices are in place, so that they can get the support that they need.”

Recently retired from the Bench in 2012, Lord Bonomy was QC on Lord Cullen’s inquiry into the Dunblane tragedy; a presiding judge for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and also led the Review of High Court Practice in Scotland.


The independent commission will not investigate individual cases, which the government said is the responsibility of cremation authorities, such as local authorities or the owners of private crematoria.

It will be distinct from the investigation being led by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini into the disposal of baby ashes at Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh, although the commission will work closely with Dame Elish and seek to learn from her investigations.

The announcement came after revelations at Mortonhall Crematorium that the ashes of stillborn and premature babies were buried in the garden of remembrance without parents’ knowledge.

It has since emerged that many other crematoria across the country had similar policies in place.