COUNCIL-RUN crematoria should not “pass judgement on people after death” by refusing to incinerate high-profile criminals, the body that represents funeral directors has said.

The National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) hit out after Mortonhall Crematorium in Edinburgh told a director acting for a bereaved family it would have knocked them back had it known whose remains it was dealing with.

It comes after Robert Swanson, Scotland’s inspector of crematoria, revealed he had been contacted by facilities worried about reputational damage if they accept the bodies of high-profile offenders such as paedophiles.

Now it has emerged Jon Levett, chief executive of the NAFD, wrote to Edinburgh Council to express his concerns earlier this year.

He wrote: “If Mortonhall Crematorium continues to adopt this policy, this could cause unnecessary problems for funeral directors and distress for the families they serve.

“We appreciate that in certain exceptional circumstances, where there is a significant risk of public unrest, it may be necessary to arrange for disposals to take place in secret.

“However, it cannot be right for a local authority to take it upon itself to pass judgement on people after death, no matter how we view their activities in life.

“We would also question whether a policy of refusing to cremate certain people is compatible with the local authority’s public health responsibilities.

“Forcing a family to approach multiple crematoria before reluctantly agreeing to cremate a person will simply cause distress for the innocent family.”

Mr Levett’s letter, which was addressed to Edinburgh Council’s chief executive Andrew Kerr, was released under Freedom of Information law.

The name and crime committed by the individual being referred to have been redacted, but it is understood the person was a child sex offender.

Mr Levett said an Edinburgh-based funeral director had taken instructions from the family and a service and cremation had taken place.

However, he said Mortonhall, which is council-run, had contacted the director prior to the funeral to say it “would have refused the cremation” had it known whose remains it was dealing with.

It also said the “cremator would now need to be deep cleaned before and after the cremation”.

Earlier this year, Mr Swanson, the inspector of crematoria, revealed he was contacted “following concerns about potential reputational damage, and procedures to be carried out should a crematorium accept application for cremation of a high-profile criminal offender (e.g. child sex offender)”.

In his annual report, he said: “Many issues were discussed including consideration of media attention, residue ash being present after cremation, and dispersal of the ashes. Whilst crematoria have the legal right to accept or refuse application for cremation, both burial and cremation authorities are advised to prepare for such an eventuality, as death is a certainty.”

In 2017, a row erupted over the ashes of Moors Murderer Ian Brady, who died in May that year at the age of 79.

Glasgow City Council said it would refuse any request for his body to be cremated in the area, where he grew up.

He was later cremated at Southport Crematorium in England, with no music or flowers allowed, and his ashes disposed of at sea in the middle of the night.

In a letter replying to the NAFD, Mr Kerr said the council does not have a policy on the matter but “adheres to its statutory obligations and its obligations at common law”.

He said: “Depending on the particular factual circumstances, where there is a genuine concern about public unrest, the council may accept an application subject to conditions or, very exceptionally, refuse an application.

“Where there is concern that special arrangements may be required, council officers consult with the Scottish Government’s inspector of crematoria.

“It may be necessary to consider special arrangements such as cremation out of hours, or scattering or interment of ashes in a discreet area. In highly exceptional cases it may not be possible to grant an application for cremation. As noted above, there is no policy in this regard and each case is carefully considered on its merits.”