Council fines mourners who overstay at crematorium

Grave tributes

North Devon Crematorium in Barnstaple has been fining mourners who take more than 40 minutes to say goodbye to their loved ones. Apparently they introduced the fine in April, and have been rigorously enforcing it.

Funeral directors have been paying the fine on behalf of their clients, but say it's simply not fair. And it's not the first time that mourners have fallen foul of insensitive authorities.
The crematorium has introduced a £147 fine if services run for longer than 40 minutes. Funeral director David Williams of A.D. Williams Funeral Directors in Bideford contacted the papers, because he felt the fine was not fair.

Ever since then, he told the Daily Mail that rather than upset someone in their darkest hour he has been paying the fee for the mourners - but says that he and other funeral directors are losing money as a result.

The crematorium told the North Devon Journal that funerals were booked in strict 30 minute slots - with an additional 10 minutes to allow people to arrive and depart. A spokesman said that if mourners were planning a long service they could book an additional 30 minutes, but it was up to funeral directors to book as long as was needed and inform families.


It's a tricky issue. Clearly a business with a fast turnover - like a crematorium - has to use rules to ensure things run smoothly. A bereaved family is not going to welcome having to stand outside the crematorium for 30 minutes waiting for the previous booking to finish, and the council has to take this into consideration.

However, when they are dealing with people going through such an incredibly hard time, it's hard to see why this cannot be handled with more sensitivity, and why enforcement of rules has to come with such a high fee.


And this is far from the first time that insensitivity has been shown to mourners. We reported last month on the 85-year-old from South Shields who had been ordered to destroy the garden he had built next to his wife's grave - because it was too long. The council had no better reason for ordering the destruction than 'rules are rules'.

A week earlier it was the turn of Gwynedd Council, which caused a huge amount of distress when they sent out letters telling people they had to remove solar lights and toys from graves at a Caernafon cemetery.

And there are no ends of councils - from Cardiff to Grimsby - who have removed tributes from gardens of remembrance, because it's against the rules and some families were deemed to be going over the top. In some cases this was done without warning.

Other councils have taken alternative approaches - which again upset many. We reported about Amber Valley Borough Council in Derbyshire, which pinned letters to headstones demanding payment of a fee of £52 or £87 for those who left extra tributes. The cemetery said this was for a 'garden permit', because the tributes made it harder to maintain the graves.

But what do you think? Are these rules the only way to keep these businesses running smoothly, or is this needless hurt being piled onto those who are already facing a terrible time in their lives?

10 consumer rights you should know
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Council fines mourners who overstay at crematorium

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.


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