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Alphabetical Index of all judgments on this web site as at 4 June 2020

Index by Dioceses of all judgments on this web site, as at 4 June 2020

Exhumations

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An application was made for a faculty to exhume the cremated remains of James Thomas Padgett (interred in 1988) from the churchyard of St. Helen's Edlington, with a view to the remains being reinterred with the ashes of his wife, which were interreded in 2007 in Newport Cemetery, nearer to the home of the deceased's daughter, who also wished to have her ashes interred in due course in the same grave in the cemetery. The applicant stated that her osteo-arthritis now prevented her from travelling long distances. The Chancellor, applying the principles in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], did not find any special circumstances to justify him granting a faculty.

The petitioner sought a faculty to authorise the exhumation of the remains of her daughter and husband from Bulkington churchyard, in Warwickshire, with a view to them being reinterred in the churchyard at Bacton in Norfolk. The petitioner's daughter had lived only one day and was buried at Bulkington fifty years ago. Her husband's cremated remains had been interred there nineteen years ago. Seven years ago, the petitioner, who had suffered serious health issues, had moved to Bacton to be near her family, and she wished in due course to be buried with the remains of her daughter and husband at Bacton, where her remaining family would be able to maintain the grave. She was concerned about being unable to visit the churchyard in Warwickshire regularly and maintain the grave there. The Chancellor, applying the principles laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, could not find sufficient exceptional grounds in this case to justify the grant of a faculty.

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty to authorise a shallow excavation in and around a late nineteenth century grave in Gorton churchyard, in order to establish whether the Moors Murderer Ian Brady buried something in a hessian sack in the grave.

The petitioners wished to have the cremated remains of their mother exhumed from the grave of her parents in one part of the churchyard and reinterred with the remains of the petitioners' father in another part of the same churchyard. Their father had expressed a wish to be buried with his wife, but the petitioners felt there would be difficulties in interring their father's ashes into the grave containing the remains of their mother and her parents. The Chancellor could find no special reasons for allowing exhumation. It would be possible to inter the ashes of the petitioners' father in the existing grave where his wife's remains were interred, thus fulfilling his wishes. Although there was insufficient space on the existing memorial to add the petitioners' father's name and dates of birth and death, the petitioners could lay a plaque in memory of their father on the grave, or else replace the existing memorial with a new one containing inscriptions in respect of the four people whose remains were interred in the grave. The petition was dismissed.

The petitioner's father's body had been buried in the churchyard in 2014. A double depth grave had been requested, but it had not been possible to dig double depth. When the petitioner's mother died in 2017, a request was made for burial in an adjoining grave, but the petitioner was informed that it would not be possible, as there were tree roots in the way, so the petitioner's mother was buried elsewhere in the churchyard. The petitioner subsequently sought advice from an arboriculturist, who advised that it would be possible to dig an adjacent grave without harm to the tree. The Petitioner therefore sought permission to exhume her mother's body and inter it in the grave next to her father. The Chancellor decided that there were exceptional circumstances to justify granting a faculty for exhumation and reinterment.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her father exhumed from the churchyard and interred along with the body of her mother in the nearby cemetery, where her brother was also buried. The Chancellor decided that this was a case where an exception could be allowed to the general rule against allowing exhumation, since he considered it a mistake for the family, on the parish priest's advice, to have had the father's cremated remains interred in the churchyard, when the family knew that the mother was against cremation and that further coffin burials in the churchyard were not possible; furthermore, the remains of the three family members who had died – father, mother and son – would then be together.

The petitioner (aged 98) and her late husband had lived in Belgium but had regularly travelled to Felixstowe over many years to visit the petitioner's mother. The petitioner's husband had died in 1992 and his ashes had been interred in Felixstowe Cemetery. The husband had no religious faith and the petitioner believed at the time of interment of his ashes that the ashes were being interred in an unconsecrated part of the cemetery, though it was eventually discovered that the whole of the cemetery was consecrated. The petitioner now wished to exhume her husband's ashes, and after her death to have his ashes and her own ashes scattered on the seashore in Felixstowe, in order to fulfill their long-held wish. In 1993, at the time when it was thought that the grave was unconsecrated, the petitioner had obtained a Home Office Licence to exhume her husband's ashes, but she had allowed the licence to lapse. The Chancellor, in the very special circumstances of this case, decided to treat this as an exceptional situation where he felt justified in granting a faculty.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her parents exhumed from the churchyard and reinterred in an unconsecrated burial ground at the Trappist Abbey of Mount St. Bernard, near Coalville in North Leicestershire, where the remains of several members of her husband's family were interred. The petitioner's original reason for seeking exhumation had been that the family home, Quenby Hall, next to the churchyard, had to be sold. But in a revised petition the petitioner asked that a faculty be granted for three reasons: (i) the interments at Hungerton had been a mistake; (ii) it was intended to put the remains in a family grave; and (ii) pastoral reasons. The Chancellor did not accept the arguments and dismissed the petition.

The petitioners' parents had intended to be buried in the same grave. The Petitioners' mother died in 2008 and was buried in the chosen grave. When the petitioners' father died in 2019, it was discovered a few days before the funeral that the grave of their mother had not been dug sufficiently deep to accommodate a second burial, and so, as a 'temporary measure', the father was buried in another part of the churchyard. The petitioners sought a faculty to authorise the exhumation of their mother's body, so that the grave could be dug deeper to accommodate the burial of their father's body. The Chancellor accepted that a mistake had been made in that the instructions to dig a double depth grave in 2008 had not been followed, and he granted a faculty for the double exhumation and reinterment, conditional upon it being possible to dig the mother's grave deeper, failing which the mother's remains could be exhumed and reinterred in her husband's grave.

A couple had planned to be buried in a double grave. The husband died in 2006 and was duly buried in the grave. His wife died in 2020, but a trial dig two weeks before the planned funeral date made it clear that the husband's coffin had not been buried sufficiently deep to allow the burial of a second coffin with enough earth above it. The undertakers therefore applied for a faculty to authorise the exhumation of the husband's coffin, to enable the grave to be dug deeper, in order to accommodate both coffins at sufficient depth. The Chancellor found that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the granting of a faculty, due to a mistake by the undertakers when the grave was originally dug in 2006.