Hundreds of bereaved parents in Hull may have wrongly been informed there were no ashes from the cremations of their children over a 10-year period – resulting in ashes either being kept in storage or scattered without their knowledge, a lawyer supporting families has said.
Andy Petherbridge, of Hudgell Solicitors, has been advising an increasing number of families who were wrongly informed there would be no ashes from cremations of their babies, having either died during pregnancy or being delivered stillborn.
Each has since discovered that ashes were in fact either kept in storage or scattered without their consent.
Court proceedings issued against Hospital Trust
One parent only found out last year – 22 years after her baby died in 1993 – that her baby’s ashes had been scattered at the cemetery the following year. All cremations took place at Chanterlands Avenue Crematorium, which is run by Hull City Council.
Following media coverage in 2013, which first revealed that some ashes could in fact have been retained, many families made their own enquires to discover they had been wrongly informed at the time of the cremations.
Now, Mr Petherbridge says subsequent investigations have revealed that Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust gave out information – both through its staff and then via an advice leaflet – wrongly informing parents there would be no ashes.
As a result, court proceedings have now been issued against the Trust relating to one family, and Mr Petherbridge says similar action is now likely to follow in all other cases.
“Very distressing for families, causing upset, stress and psychological injuries”
“The common theme we have discovered from our investigations is that parents were either told by a representative shortly after the cremations that there would be no ashes due to the size of the babies, or they received a leaflet from the Trust,” said Mr Petherbridge.
“The advice brochure, entitled ‘Precious Moments’, is marked as being produced by the Trust, and inside advises parents that they ‘should be aware, however, that with a baby there will be no ashes left.’
“This has been a sensitive and complicated matter as we are talking about cases which date back as long as 23 years in terms of parents wrongly being informed there would be no ashes following cremations.
“It has obviously been very distressing for many families to suddenly discover the ashes of their babies have been sat in storage, or scattered without their knowledge, and it goes without saying that it has caused upset, stress, and in some cases significant psychological injuries.
“For such mistakes to be made at such a difficult time in parents’ lives is completely inexcusable, as is the fact that the errors happened for so long.
“The families who have come to us for support were given wrong information between 1993 and 2003, and one family only found out they had been wrongly informed more than 20 years after their child had been cremated.
“That leads me to believe we are potentially looking at hundreds of families being given the wrong information over that period of time, which, if proven to be the case, is utterly shocking,”