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Last Updated: Friday, 5 September, 2003, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Cemetery visitors to be escorted
Gravestones, generic
There are cases where people have died from falling gravestones
Visitors to a cemetery in Edinburgh will be escorted by council staff because of fears that unsafe headstones may fall on them.

The decision was taken just days after a health and safety inspection of Morningside Cemetery's 6,000 headstones was launched.

Edinburgh City Council officials said many of the gravestones were loose enough to move when touched lightly and so presented a "major health and safety risk" to the public.

Officials are also closing the graveyard overnight.

The access restrictions are due to remain in place while work continues to ensure the safety of the cemetery, which was purchased from a private owner in February 1992.

Visitors will still be able to visit the gravesides of loved ones, however they will be informed of the situation with loose headstones
Mike Drewry
Edinburgh Council
Until further notice the gates will be locked between 1700 BST and 0900 BST to discourage unsupervised visits and discourage children from playing there in the evening.

Edinburgh Council's director of environmental and consumer services Mike Drewry said he regretted the decision to restrict access but that this would not affect future burials since mourners would be directed via a safe route.

He said: "Due to the number of headstones that are loose enough to move when touched slightly it was felt to be a necessary step to take in order to protect the safety of those using the cemetery.

Crushed to death

"Visitors will still be able to visit the gravesides of loved ones, however they will be informed of the situation with loose headstones and either escorted to the graveside or advised of the safest route to take."

The council's inspection programme to check the 120,000 memorials in its 39 cemeteries was launched last year following fatalities involving falling headstones in Scotland, England and Wales.

Harrogate Council faced legal proceedings by the Health and Safety Executive and the parents of six-year-old Reuben Powell, when the boy was crushed to death by a headstone in July 2000.

In Edinburgh, 15-year-old Thomas Clark died and two others were injured when a granite headstone fell on them as they played in Newington Cemetery in 1982.

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