25 January, 2018

Ciaran Williamson FAI

Sheriff Ruxton has issued his determination into the death of Ciaran Williamson following an accident at Craigton Cemetery.

During the course of this FAI,  in their submissions to the Sheriff both the Crown and Glasgow City Council, “GCC” argued that Sheriff Ruxton should make no findings in relation to;- (a) reasonable precautions that might have resulted in Ciaran’s death being avoided, (b) defects in any system of work which contributed to his death, and (c) that after Ciaran’s death, GCC had developed appropriate policies and their staff have been trained to carry out appropriate inspections of gravestones and memorials under their care and control.

The approach of the Crown and GCC to this Inquiry was challenged by Counsel on behalf of the bereaved family, Dorothy R Bain QC and today Sheriff Ruxton’s determination was issued.

Contrary to the position adopted by the Crown and GCC,  Sheriff Ruxton made a number of significant determinations identifying, (a) reasonable precautions where by Ciaran’s death might have been avoided, (b) defects in GCC system of working in relation to the safety of gravestones and memorials , (c) recommended that the Scottish Government  issue guidance on gravestone and memorial safety and (d), recommended that GCC reconsider their most recent guidance issued in 2015.

In summary Sheriff Ruxton determined:

(a) The reasonable precautions, if any, whereby the death and the accident resulting in the death might have been avoided:

  1. The carrying out of repairs to the perimeter wall at Craigton Cemetery so that the convenient but unauthorised access point opposite the flats where Ciaran lived was sealed was a reasonable precaution whereby Ciaran’s death and the accident resulting in his death might have been avoided.
  2. A routine inspection of the Ross memorial incorporating the application of a hand test at various heights including at the height of the pediment in order to detect concerning movement would have been a reasonable precaution whereby Ciaran’s death and the accident which resulted in his death might have been avoided.

(b) The defects, if any, in an system of working which contributed to the death or any accident resulting in the death.

The absence of an active system of inspection to ensure the safety and stability of memorials in Glasgow cemeteries and, in particular, in Craigton Cemetery was a defect in Glasgow City Council’s system of working which contributed to Ciaran’s death and the accident resulting in his death.

(c) Any other facts which are relevant to the circumstances of the death:

  1. There was confusion as to the proper interpretation of industry guidance on safety management within cemeteries and the methods of inspection of memorials to determine their stability and safety. The available guidance is unclear on a number of aspects including the appropriate test to be applied to large, heavy monuments such as the Ross memorial and the circumstances in which it is appropriate to apply the industry-recognised 25 kilogramme pressure test.
  2. Large, heavy, multi-part memorials such as the Ross memorial present particular dangers to the public when they begin to shift from vertical and lean towards the ground. There is a lack of clear advice to local authorities on how to test these moving structures.
  3. There is an absence of Scottish guidance on safe cemetery management with particular reference to memorial safety. These are matters which have significant implications for the safety of the public who visit cemeteries and all who work there.

Recommendations Sheriff Ruxton recommended:

  1. That the Scottish Government issue separate guidance on memorial safety in cemeteries for use by local authorities throughout Scotland. Such guidance should include a category of advice on how to inspect large, traditional monuments such as the Ross memorial, as distinct from lawn memorials and other smaller structures. Given the potential danger posed by large leaning memorials, these should be given special attention and clear guidance issued as to the procedures for testing their safety and stability in order to assess whether there is concerning movement associated with such structures.
  2. That Glasgow City Council reconsider their recent 2015 guidance on memorial inspection to take account of the issues raised in this Inquiry. 3. That consideration be given by the relevant agencies and associations that the existing industry guidance on memorial safety and stability testing be re-visited with a view to producing separate guidance on the inspection of traditional memorials and, in particular, those whose centres of gravity are shifting from the vertical.

The full Determination can be found on the Scottish Courts & Tribunal Service website here.

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