independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Crematorium not returning baby ash

The latest revelations follow last year's news that cremated remains of babies were secretly buried at Mortonhall Crematorium near Edinburgh

A crematorium in Scotland has not returned the ashes of any dead babies to their parents in the last five years.

Details released under freedom of information (FoI) show 24 babies were cremated at Aberdeen Crematorium over the period but on no occasions were ashes given to their families.

A BBC Scotland documentary team investigated the situation in the wake of the Mortonhall scandal in Edinburgh.

It emerged last year that the council-run crematorium secretly buried babies' remains without the knowledge of their parents.

Former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini has been appointed to lead an investigation into the practices there.

The BBC asked council-run crematoriums across Scotland whether ashes are returned to the parents of stillborn babies and infants up to the age of six months who had died, but some of the answers it received related to babies who were as old as a year when they died.

It said Aberdeen City Council told the programme it does not return ashes to parents for babies up to 18 months of age. A spokesman for the council said the "intense heat and the turbulent flow of gases during the cremation process" means there are "no recoverable remains from a baby and infant up to the age of approximately 18 months".

In Fife the council-run crematoriums in Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy returned ashes to the families in just over half of cases, 45 out of 87 cremations of babies up to one year old. South Ayrshire Council, Falkirk Council, Highland Council and South Lanarkshire Council said that in all cases of babies being cremated, their ashes were either returned to the parents or scattered with their consent.

Patrick McGuire, a lawyer representing some of the Mortonhall families, said the investigation shows that the situation there is "simply the tip of the iceberg". Parents of young babies cremated at Mortonhall were led to believe there would be nothing left to scatter, but Mr McGuire told the programme: "The law says in clear terms they must return ashes. Ashes means everything that's left in the chamber. It's that simple.

"The law is clear. And it goes back to the fact that these families at their lowest ebb, in their darkest hour, trusted what they were told. They now look back and think, 'Why didn't we ask? Why did we trust these people?' And I have to say they're absolutely right. Their trust was utterly misplaced. It's perfectly clear to me that what we are facing at the moment is simply the tip of the iceberg of a scandal that will run throughout all of Scotland, and that by the time all of the facts are out, I've no doubt that there will be no community in all of Scotland that is not affected by this."

Press Association

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