Probe into child burials

DUMFRIES and Galloway Council has been the subject of an indepen­dent investigation into its burial practices after it was accused of illegally removing or exhuming child remains and coffins.

This was done to facilitate interments but poor records and the practice of burying children at a depth of three feet six inches (1.07m) meant human remains having to be moved temporarily.

Before the investigation began, chief executive Gavin Stevenson reported the circumstances to the police, who in turn reported this to the Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal Service, who were of the view that there was no criminal case.

The independent investigation concurred with the police that, while there was evidence that human remains and urns containing ashes were moved during the reopening of lairs, it was not done with any criminal intent or malice.

Since the investigation, a burial services operations handbook has been issued which gives clear instructions on the steps to be taken if an excavation encounters a problem of previously buried remains. Digging must now stop if a coffin or urn is found and a fast-track petition for exhumation given to the local Sheriff Clerk’s Office. Because of these issues, child interments are now at a depth of seven feet.