Council boss accused of ‘misleading’ HSE on headstone inspections

Ciaran Williamson died when a headstone fell on him. Picture: Contributed

Ciaran Williamson died when a headstone fell on him. Picture: Contributed

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A senior council official was yesterday accused of misleading health and safety chiefs about headstone inspections before a child was killed in a cemetery.

Alasdair Brown was questioned for a second day at an inquiry into the death of eight-year-old Ciaran Williamson, on 26 May 2015.

The schoolboy was playing with friends in Craigton Cemetery when a stone fell on him.

The inquiry is to establish if there were any reasonable precautions that could have prevented the tragedy and to establish if there were any defects in the system of work which caused or contributed to Ciaran’s death.

Mr Brown, the head of environment and sustainability, wrote to the health and safety executive (HSE) following the tragedy. In his letter he said the council had established a “formal process of inspection” before 2015.

The letter also said: “Whilst there does not seem to be any formal inspections undertaken from 2011 there are reports of a number of inspections on an ad hoc basis.”

Paperwork sent to the HSE included 11 reports of checks at cemeteries in Glasgow, between 2006 and 2011. Six cemeteries had only one report while two others had multiple checks over those years. An example of one record from Sandymount cemetery dated back to 2006 and recorded three memorials being checked.

Dorothy Bain QC, representing Ciaran’s mother, Stephanie Griffin, questioned Mr Brown about the records. She said: “There’s no record for Craigton here.” The witness replied: “There’s no record for Craigton.”

Ms Bain asked him: “The records clearly meaningless, aren’t they?”

Mr Brown said he “wasn’t familiar with guidance” but said he would have thought they would have asked for “more explicit records”.

Miss Bain continued: “If this is all there is, there is no evidence whatsoever of what you have told the inspectorate, namely a formal process for the inspection of memorials within burial grounds.

“It’s completely misleading the inspectorate.”

The witness replied: “I would have expected the inspectorate if they were unhappy with phraseology to come back to me for more records.”

On Monday Mr Brown told the inquiry that inspections of headstones at the time “didn’t offer the protection required”.

He said a review of inspections did not take place until after Ciaran’s death.

The inquiry before Sheriff Linda Ruxton continues.

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