Glasgow & West Scotland

Headstones deemed 'unsafe' after Glasgow cemetery death

Ciaran James Williamson Image copyright Police Scotland

A fatal accident inquiry into the death of a boy at a Glasgow cemetery has heard that up to 900 headstones were deemed unsafe days after the tragedy.

Ciaran Williamson, eight, was playing with friends in Craigton Cemetery when a headstone fell on him on 26 May 2015.

Council employee David MacCall told the inquiry in the days after Ciaran's death, between 500 and 900 headstones were laid flat over safety concerns.

It also emerged that another boy was injured by a headstone there in 2010.

Mr MacCall, who the assistant bereavement services manager at Glasgow City Council, was giving evidence at the inquiry which is taking place at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Inspection concerns

The inquiry will try to establish if there were any reasonable precautions that could have prevented the tragedy at the cemetery in Cardonald.

Mr MacCall told the inquiry he joined the council in 2013 and had raised concerns that there were no regular checks of memorials in the city.

The witness said he was told "what we carry out at the present time was proportionate to the resources available".

He said there was no permanent staff at Craigton Cemetery at the time and the council had teamed up with the Scottish Prison Service to have inmates who are preparing to leave prison work at some of their cemeteries.

Mr MacCall said this was done at cemeteries in the east end of the Glasgow because it was in the lead up to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The witness was asked by procurator fiscal depute Gail Adair about the response by the council after Ciaran's death.

He said that once the area had been made safe they "secured the site" and "attempted to make all memorials they felt were unsafe, safe".

Mr MacCall said staff laid flat the memorials that were deemed unsafe.

When asked how many were judged to be unsafe, he replied: "Between 500 and 900."

Asked if that was a realistic number, he said that Craigton Cemetery had been subject of a "significant amount of vandalism".

Ms Adair told Mr MacCall the inquiry has heard evidence that Ciaran and his friends went into the cemetery through a hole in the wall.

She asked: "Do you know when, or if, that hole was reported to Glasgow City Council?"

The witness said that he had since learned there was a complaint in 2014 and there were two follow ups.

The fiscal depute confirmed with Mr MacCall that it was passed between different departments and followed up but was not repaired.

She put to him: "I think we heard in evidence the hole in the wall was repaired shortly after Ciaran's death."

Mr MacCall answered: "Yes, that's correct."

Other injury

The inquiry also heard that another child had been injured by a gravestone in the same cemetery.

Mark Gibson, the solicitor representing Ciaran's mum, Stephanie Griffin, cross-examined Mr MacColl.

He put the details of a council incident report form, of an incident said to have taken place in July 2010, at Craigton Cemetery.

Mr Gibson read: "Received call on July 20 informed headstone had fallen on to a 14-year-old boy.

"Govan Police mentioned lock had to be cut open by the fire service."

Mr MacColl said he could not comment on anything as he was not there at the time.

Mr Gibson asked if the report "would suggest the council were aware of falling memorial stones in Craigton" but the witness said he could not comment.

The inquiry heard that council workers who inspect gravestones adhere to Ministry of Justice guidance.

Mr MacColl said if one is inspected and found to be unsafe it is made safe according to protocol or is recorded as safe and inspected again at a later date.

The court heard the gravestone that killed Ciaran was not inspected prior to his death.

The inquiry heard that the practice at the time was only to inspect five headstones on each side of where a burial is due to take place.

Mr MacCall told the court that the tree beside the gravestone that killed Ciaran had now been removed.

Asked why, the witness said "because it was at that locus".

The inquiry before Sheriff Linda Ruxton continues.

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