Jun 13 2012 by Kaiya Marjoribanks, Stirling Observer Wednesday
STIRLING Council has paid out more than £500 to a Dunblane father who accused cemetery workers of removing the headstone on his son’s grave.
The council has settled with Gerry Petrie out of court, paying the £389 it cost him to have the memorial reinstated plus interest and expenses, amounting to £506.82.
However, the authority’s solicitors said the offer was made “on an economic basis without any admission of liability”.
Mr Petrie claimed his son Kevin’s headstone was moved purely to give cemetery workers easier access to another burial site.
The authority said it was unstable.
Kevin died in 1992, aged just 18, as a result of an accident and was buried in the family lair at Lecropt Kirk.
Mr Petrie, an elder at the Kirk, says he has visited Kevin’s grave on a weekly basis. He claimed that the headstone showed no signs of deterioration or movement before it was removed last summer. If it had done so he would have arranged for work to be undertaken to address the problem.
He sought to force the council to explain its actions by taking a small claims action against it at Stirling Sheriff Court to reclaim the costs of reinstatement.
He said he had been “shocked and traumatised” when he saw the damage to his son’s grave.
Mr Petrie said this week: “In some ways it is disappointing that the council have not had to explain themselves in court. The principle was always more important to me than any money.
“However, we are delighted that there has now been a positive conclusion as this has been a very upsetting situation.”
His daughter Tracey Muir said: “The council misled both my father and Anne McGuire MP in a letter which stated that Kevin's headstone had been removed prior to digging the new lair in keeping with Stirling Council's interment inspection procedure.
“However, this is contrary to the statement we were given by witnesses who told us they spoke to the gravediggers on the day in question, when the new lair had already been dug out, and my brother’s and two other headstones were still in place.
“The witnesses said the grave diggers said they were having problems stabilising the ground as it was wet and they would probably have to remove the headstones for safety reasons. This means the headstones had not been identified as being unstable during the interment inspection, which is carried out before digging commences.
“There are two other families affected by this outcome of our action, as they also had their relatives’ headstones removed in the same circumstances. We hope our action might also allow these families the opportunity to seek compensation from the council.
“It would be interesting to know just how much it cost Stirling Council to defend the small claim action against them. They ended up paying my dad more than he had originally sought from them 11 months ago, in expenses and interest. This does not include the costs incurred employing a solicitor to defend the case on their behalf.
“It has taken my dad 11 months to get this result and in that time he has never received an apology from the council for the damage to my brother's grave and the distress that this has caused him and our family.”
Stirling Council declined to comment on the settlement.