Making doubly sure

Charles Cowling

Back in April I reported the story of the undertaker who forged a client’s signature on a cremation form  and then had the body cremated without their knowledge. The body was that of a 26 week-old boy, Sonny. His parents had wanted to dress him and put special items in his coffin. Read it here.

Sonny’s parents, Mr and Mrs Lau, asked me to publicise the case because they don’t want anyone else to suffer as they have. We can’t know what it feels like to have gone through what they did; such a thing is unimaginable. On top of it all they had to contest the obdurate lies of the undertaker.

Now, with the support of their local MP, they are asking the Ministry of Justice to require two signatures on an application for cremation, and for those signatures to be witnessed.

In an email to me Mrs Lau says, “Co-op need to be named and shamed. They had no respect for us and did nothing to support us throughout this ordeal … Fingers crossed I will be able to raise awareness prior to some legislation being introduced. I wondered kindly if you could blog the BBC report on your fine blog. I know it’s repetitive but think that the court report never captured the pain that we endured for the 9 months. I do get upset every time I talk about what happened to us but I gather strength knowing that everything I do is for my son.”

Read the full BBC report here.

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Norfolk Boi
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Norfolk Boi

The main reason the counter-signature was removed was that in almost all cases the counter=signature was that of the funeral director.

Let’s face it, if the funeral director was going to falsify the signature of the applicant, they wouldn’t have any problem signing their own name after it.

Lau
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Lau

Dear Jonathan.  You are absolutely right, we didn’t ask any of the questions that you posed … Hindsight is a virtue! Don’t you think we have questioned ourselves in why we didn’t take more responsibility over our precious son, why we didn’t call the crematorium to double check that we couldnt attend (as Durden had suggested), why we didn’t hound him and instead left it for 8 days before we contacted him again only to find out my son was already cremated, why we didnt speak to friends who have arranged a funeral before…  because we trusted him, he was… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

Just one point, Teresa: I’m not saying people should take more responsibility. On the contrary, most often they’re in no fit state to do anything by allow themselves to be led. I’m saying that, for precisely this reason, it’s the responsibility of others to guide them into understanding their opportunities, and that there needs to be an independent advisory service skilled in bereavement awareness. Actually, I mean gifted in bereavement awarenss, as anyone can acquire a skill.

Teresa
Guest

Ooh thank you Charles, you flatter me. In respect of arranging a funeral it may well indeed be the case that people find you too late, but you cannot be certain of this. I am sure that your efforts will go a long way to equipping people, even if those numbers are fewer at the moment..all best effort makes a difference. If by too late you mean should they suffer a bad funeral experience, people have 6 years to bring a claim for breach of contract, and 3 years I believe to sue for damages re personal emotional injury, which… Read more »

Teresa
Guest

Hear Hear Sandra! It is public education that is needed and I would say from around the age of 16. As it now OK to discuss sex at this age in our schools, and even younger in many instances, then why not discuss death and funeral arranging. After all it will happen to us all at some time and for your dear son much sooner than anyone can cope with imagining. My son was aged just 20, and considered in law to be an adult, but he was my baby boy, as is my eldest son who is now 28… Read more »

Teresa
Guest

Charles, I have written to Direct.gov on numerous occasions to request the team amend some information. They have done so in some instances, especially related to embalming (which had taken months), but at other times have ignored me. One of the matters that I have been ignored about was my request to include information that fees paid from the social fund could be still recovered by an eligible claimant if they was not employing an undertaker. They likely ignored me because this was not included in DWP literature, now that it will be included… I will be watching! Direct.gov has… Read more »

Lau
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Lau

We do fully appreciate your points of view. In hindsight we were stupid to believe in the funeral director. We did not check their creditabilty ; in fact we cannot record of any point of reference that these ‘levels of professionalism’ can be accessed. Are there any customer satisfaction surveys available to the mass regarding this area of business? Is there a creditability study of FD work and ethics. What we are trying to attain is not for government to change / ammend legislation in itself BUT to make the mass aware, that death in itself as hard as it… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

A funeral director’s employee, David Durden, was found to have broken the law (and his clients’ hearts) by deliberately forging one of their signatures on a cremation form. Discreditable as this is, to say the least, it seems a terrible shame to have to involve Parliament to ensure it cannot happen again. Surely the real problem is not so much that the system enabled Durden to commit the forgery as it is his willingness to deceive a grieving family, for whatever reason he did, and his callous disregard for them in failing to even let them know of the cremation… Read more »

Kingfisher
Guest

http://www.justice.gov.uk/guidance/docs/cremation-funeral-directors-guidance.pdf

Page 3 of the PDF, which is page 2 of the document, Item 4 – interesting that it is termed “a minor change”

Kingfisher
Guest

Just in case anyone is unaware, it was a requirement to have two signatures on the Application for Cremation until very recently (2008?) – before the regulations were changed the application had to be witnessed. The first time I used a “new” Form 1 instead of the “old” Form A, I was searching for ages for the space for the witness to sign, before realising it was no longer required.

gloria mundi
Guest

Dreadful, and admirable of the couple to seek to ensure it could never happen again.Mrs Lau, it’s not repetitive, it’s a generous public service. Two more general thoughts: according to the BBC website, there was a £15 “victim surcharge” imposed on the FD. What??? Dreadful term, derisory sum. And those useless words “I know how you feel.” Oh dear. How often do we want to make a gesture of fellow-feeling, so we say that? But it isn’t fellow-feeling, because further thought and sensitivity – surely the stock in trade of any good FD – would show that it is literally… Read more »