Local Investigations: Guidance and Expectations
1. The Infant Cremation Commission has been established by the Scottish Government to review the current policies, guidance and practice in Scotland in relation to the handling of all recoverable remains (ashes) following the cremation of babies and infants, and to make recommendations for improvement
2. The Commission has no responsibility for the investigation of specific incidents or allegations, but Ministers have asked the Commission to provide guidance to cremation authorities on how such investigations should be conducted. Specifically, the Commission’s remit includes:
- To give guidance on the conduct of any investigations of historical practice undertaken by Local Authority or independent crematoria operators
3. The Commission recognises that it is not for it to determine whether any investigation should be conducted, but simply to provide guidance in the event that any investigation is established
4. This document sets down the key principles which the Commission believes should guide any local investigation undertaken by cremation authorities. In producing this Guidance the Commission has taken account of the approach taken by the City of Edinburgh Council in commissioning the Mortonhall Investigation, led by Dame Elish Angiolini.
5. Under the terms of the Cremation (Scotland) Regulations 1935, ‘cremation authorities’ (the owners of crematoria) are responsible for the handling of ashes following cremation
6. Where a cremation authority has decided to conduct an investigation of historical practice, that authority should ensure that the investigation adheres to the following key principles:
- Independent and objective: Investigations should be objective and independent of that cremation authority. The authority should seek to appoint an individual to lead any investigation who is not directly employed by that cremation authority and who can be a credible chair for any such investigation. In considering specific incidents or allegations local investigations may also wish to undertake, or separately commission, a full audit of documentary records held by any individual crematorium or cremation authority. Such audits should be conducted by appropriately qualified individuals and the findings of such audits should be shared with the affected individuals and should be detailed in the investigation report.
- Respectful and Sensitive: Investigations should at all times be respectful and sensitive to bereaved families and other affected individuals
- Clarity of purpose: Investigations should have a clearly defined remit that is made publicly available for interested parties
- Timely: Investigations should seek to proceed without undue delay to ensure that those affected can be assured that progress is being made and that outcomes will be available in good time. If appropriate the remit for investigations should include timescales for reporting.
- Inclusive and comprehensive: Investigations should seek to take account of all relevant evidence, including documentary evidence on local practice and policies, the experience of affected parents and the experience and perspective of staff involved. All organisations and individuals providing evidence to the investigation should have sufficient time to do so, and should receive clear and helpful instructions on how to contribute
- Transparent: Investigations should seek to communicate regularly with all affected or bereaved parents to ensure there is transparency about the work of the investigation and its progress
- Primacy of criminal justice investigations: Investigations should engage with Police Scotland in circumstances where there is any suggestion of criminal activity. Where any aspect of a local investigation is also the subject of inquiry by Police Scotland or consideration by the Procurator Fiscal, those conducting the local investigation should consider, following consultation with Police Scotland and/or the PF where appropriate, whether to suspend the local investigation until that work is complete or a decision is taken that there is no case to answer or no prosecution will be pursued.
- Reporting: Investigation reports should be shared with the commissioning cremation authority, but should also be published and made available to all interested parties
7. The Commission expects that all relevant organisations, including cremation authorities and their staff; NHS Boards and their staff; Funeral Directors and their staff; and members of the public, will engage with local investigations constructively and positively.