Tim Morris of the ICCM on the baby ashes scandal

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We are pleased this morning to publish the responses of Tim Morris, Chief Executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management to four questions we emailed him last weekend concerning the recommendations of the Bonomy Report which was set up in the aftermath of the Mortonhall Investigation Report. We are extremely grateful to him for taking the time to do this, the more so because he is under absolutely no obligation to do so. GFG questions in black, Tim’s response in blue.

1.   I am not aware of any published figures regarding success rates for the recovery of ashes resulting from the cremation of ‘babies and infants’ (Bonomy) by crematoria in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Have the figures been collated?

 UK figures in E & W have not been collated however the BBC has sent FOI requests to all local government crematoria. As you know, private crematoria are not bound by FOI legislation. The figures in Scotland were collated by the Commission and these reflect those previously collected by the BBC and identify those where no ashes or a limited number were returned. The private sector responded to the Commission.
2.   Would you expect to see, or are you aware of, similar disparities in baby ash recovery rates between crematoria in the rest of the UK?
We are only aware of the case of Emstrey crematorium however on the basis of information relating to Scotland there could potentially be more. 
At the outset of the Mortonhall issue the Institute couldn’t understand why any crematorium would treat  the cremation of a baby differently to that of an adult. It is now evident that this was happening at a number of crematoria for many years. Dame Angiolini recognised the perceived difference between ashes and cremated remains as being the  ‘fundamental issue’. The fact that ashes were recovered at Mortonhall and buried without the knowledge of parents is indicative of the view by some that there is nothing of the baby within the ash. 
3.   Bonomy recommends that the “ICCM and FBCA should review their respective technical training programmes”. Has the ICCM fallen short in its training provision to operators of crematorium equipment and subsequent sharing of best practice?
It has to be said that the Institute has not included specific baby and infant cremation training in its technicians training scheme however it had published articles on technique as long ago as 1997. At the time of the Mortonhall issue coming to light there was no indication that difference was being applied in respect of ‘ashes’ and ‘cremated remains’. No more excuses – the job needs to be finished. This recommendation is being addressed with a new training unit to be released in the near future. 
4.   Has the ICCM formulated and published a response to Bonomy? If so, may I have a copy?

I’ll forward the Institute’s newsletter this week when it goes out to our members. We are working closely with Sands who will also be sending out correspondence this week.

The report has been well received by the Institute’s board and we have commenced implementing the specific recommendations. We are certainly pleased in respect of:

*     The definition of the terms ashes and cremated remains are to be defined in legislation as this effectively clarifies beyond doubt the ‘fundamental issue’ and difference of opinion between the FBCA and ICCM.

*     Forms and register are to be made statutory documents as this will force a common approach and provide security of information for parents.

*     The national investigation of every case in Scotland will be undertaken by Dame Angiolini as this might bring closure for some bereaved parents and get to the bottom of the root cause.

*     The Scottish Government is making representation to its counterparts in England and Wales as we believe that the Ministry of Justice must now become involved.

*     The recommended inspectorate. This is something that the Institute suggested in 2000 and 2004.

*     Opposition to policy and guidance for the sensitive disposal of babies has been swept aside.

Institute members have been sent regular newsletters since this issue first arose informing them of progress with regard the work of the Commission and is the only organisation within the cremation sector that has posted the reports and newsletters on its website.

On a closely connected matter the main reason for the Institute’s first policy statement made in 1985 was to cease the clinical waste route for babies. This continued to be a hidden scandal for years. At last, and following a 30 minute documentary the Minister ordered a cessation of this route for babies just a month or so ago.


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