Council fines mourners who overstay at crematorium

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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.

Insensitive

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.

Upset

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?

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