Cremated babies mixed with ashes of unrelated adults
A CREMATORIUM told grieving parents that it could not give them the ashes of their babies, and cremated infants together with unrelated adults, an inquiry has found.
Dame Elish Angiolini looked at more than 200 cases of infant cremation for a report commissioned by the Scottish Government following a scandal at Mortonhall in Edinburgh, where it emerged that the crematorium had secretly buried or scattered the ashes of babies for decades without the knowledge of their families.
Bereaved parents had been told there would be no ashes produced and other local authorities including Aberdeen city council were subsequently implicated in similar practices.
Dame Elish, a former lord advocate, found “deeply shocking” practices at Hazlehead Crematorium in Aberdeen. In some cases an infant’s coffin was placed beside an unrelated adult’s coffin and both cremated together. Many staff had the “extraordinary belief ” that there would be no recovered ashes from babies up to the age of 18 months despite the fact that they were recovered in other crematoriums.
The national cremation investigation report said: “Like Mortonhall, this was a section of the city council working in almost complete isolation without any strategic direction, development or quality control of the service, so far as it related to babies, infants and non-viable foetuses.”
Dame Elish said: “The cremation of babies along with unknown adults is an unethical and abhorrent practice which will offend the sensibilities of the wider community and cause great distress to those whose babies were cremated.
“It will also cause profound concern to the next of kin of unrelated adults who may have collected and continue to retain ashes of loved ones cremated at Aberdeen which also contain the ashes of a baby or one or even several non-viable foetuses. The understanding that there were no ashes or that they could not be recovered was not explained and is inexplicable.”
Fifteen recommendations were made including that a law be introduced to prevent the mixing of baby ashes with those of another person, criminal sanctions and tighter regulation of crematoriums.
The Scottish public health minister, Aileen Campbell, said: “Some of the historic practices uncovered in this report are unacceptable and, frankly, appalling.” She said legislation had been brought forward to overhaul policy and practice in burials and cremations.