Feb 15 2012 by Kaiya Marjoribanks, Stirling Observer Wednesday
A DUNBLANE father is taking Stirling Council to court claiming its cemetery workers removed the headstone on his son’s grave purely to give them easier access to another burial site.
Gerry Petrie’s son Kevin died in 1992, aged 18, as a result of an accident, and was interred within the family lair at Lecropt Kirk.
Since then Mr Petrie, an elder and regular church attender at the Kirk, says he has visited Kevin’s grave on average on a weekly basis.
He is seeking to force the council to explain themselves by taking a small claims action against the authority at Stirling Sheriff Court to reclaim £389 – the amount he says it cost him to have Kevin’s headstone reinstated after the council removed it claiming it was unstable.
His claim states that when he visited the grave on Sunday, July 3 last year he noted the headstone and its base were “sound and showing no sign of deterioration”, and noticed “no movement whatsoever”.
Mr Petrie says that, had there been any movement at all, he would have arranged for work to be undertaken to address the problem.
He further states that when he attended again just one week later, he was “confronted by the sight of the headstone and base of Kevin’s, and two other adjacent graves, lying flat on the ground”.
In addition, he also noted that “tracks from a mechanised vehicle led between the affected headstones to a lair which had been dug out to allow an interment to take place”.
In his statement submitted to the court, Mr Petrie says he was “shocked and traumatised by the sight of the damage” to his son’s grave.
He adds that he subsequently made enquiries and “learned that employees of Stirling Council had allegedly conducted a ‘fingertip’ inspection of the headstones adjacent to the lair to be dug out and had found that the three, in immediate proximity to the required work, had been considered unsafe and had been laid flat as a result”.
Mr Petrie – who says he is in “no doubt” that the only reason the headstone on his son’s grave was laid flat was to allow council employees to dig out the adjacent lair – was later required to pay the sum of £389 to have the headstone reinstated.
A Stirling Council spokesperson said: “As this case is subject to court proceedings we are unable to comment. However, we would like to state the council's policy.
“As the burial authority for cemeteries within the Stirling Council area we have a responsibility to our operatives/staff and members of the public to ensure, where possible, that our churchyards and cemeteries are a safe environment for working in or visiting and meet health and safety standards.
“Part of the interment process involves checking the stability of memorials within the vicinity of the grave to be excavated. This ensures that our staff and mourners' safety is not compromised. If, during this process, any memorials are considered unsafe, they are either carefully laid flat or taped off depending on the level of risk and their proximity to the grave being excavated/prepared.
“Signage is placed on the memorials explaining why and includes contact details of the cemeteries office. Our records are searched to identify the relevant owner and a letter of notification issued.
“Our inspection process complies with Health and Safety Executive guidelines. It gathers simple facts that address whether the memorials pose an immediate danger to our operatives and the public. A memorial that is considered dangerous is one that fails the testing procedure. Responsibility for memorials and their safety rests with families.
“The procedure consists of a visual inspection to determine whether the foundation is exposed, whether the memorial is leaning and joints are intact. A physical hand test then follows where pressure is applied to detect movement and establish memorial stability.”
The civil action is expected to come before the sheriff later this month.