Shrewsbury baby ashes inquiry could prompt new rules

Baby Memorial
Image caption The Shropshire inquiry is expected to publish its findings next month

An inquiry into the mishandling of baby ashes at a crematorium in Shrewsbury could lead to new national guidelines, the government has said.

An investigation is being into Emstrey Crematorium's failure to return babies' ashes to bereaved parents.

Last month, its head David Jenkins said at least 60 families had been affected.

The Justice and Civil Liberties Minister Simon Hughes said work on a national standard could begin as soon as the Shropshire inquiry concludes.

'Improved practice'

"It is clear we need to have a much more consistent practice of burial and cremation across the country," he said.

"We need to make sure we have absolutely the best standards in every part of the country and anything the inquiry recommends to me by the way of improved practice not just in Shropshire, but elsewhere, I would intend to follow.

"There's been a commission into infant cremation in Scotland. We'll make sure we learn the lessons from that and the inquiry in Shropshire."

Mr Hughes, who is responsible for coroners, cremations and burials, said work on national regulations could begin before the election and be in place later in the year.

The Shrewsbury independent inquiry, set up by Shropshire Council, is investigating cases at Emstrey Crematorium before 2012 and is due to report its findings next month.

A BBC investigation found just one set of ashes had been returned to bereaved families since 2004.

Co-operative Funeralcare, which took over the running of the site in 2011, said while it had returned infant remains in all cases since new equipment was introduced in 2012, it continued to follow industry guidance in advising families it could not "fully guarantee ashes".

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