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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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The Chancellor granted a faculty for exhumation, finding that there were sufficient special circumstances to justify him doing so. The undertakers had failed to ensure that the grave digger had dug the grave sufficiently deep. In consequence of this failure, the coffin had become exposed to the surface at one end, where the ground had sunk. Additionally, the ground anchors supporting the headstone had pierced the top corner of the coffin and the coffin lid was broken or had rotted since burial. The Chancellor directed that the cost of the exhumation, including the faculty fees, should rest with the undertakers.

The petitioner wished to have the remains of her late father-in-law temporarily exhumed for DNA analysis. She claimed that in 2018 her husband had been wrongly convicted of two rapes in 1983 and 1988. The petitioner's sister-in-law did not believe that her brother had committed the offences of which he had been convicted, but that her father might well have been the perpetrator. The Chancellor considered that the petitioner had made out a case for the temporary disinterment of the remains and sampling of bone fragments for DNA analysis, to establish whether there was a possibility of a miscarriage of justice. He accordingly granted a faculty.

The petitioners wished to have their father's ashes (interred in 2004) exhumed and reinterred in the grave of their mother, whose body was buried in 2015. Considering the guidelines in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], the Chancellor determined to grant a faculty on the basis that (a) the reinterment would be into a family grave and would free up a cremation plot

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty to authorise the temporary removal from the vault beneath the Sheldon Chapel of a skull, possibly that of William Shakespeare, to enable the carrying out of a detailed archaeological investigation to include laser scanning, radio carbon dating, and an anthropological assessment. The Chancellor found no scholarly or other evidence to support the story that the skull was that of William Shakespeare.

The petitioner wished to exhume the cremated remains of her father and reinter them in the grave of her mother in the same churchyard. The Chancellor decided that neither a desire to have both parents' remains together, nor the state of the location where the father's remains were interred, were enough to amount to special circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty for exhumation. Nor was there any element of mistake as to the places of interment. He therefore refused to grant a faculty.

The petitioners wished to exhume the cremated remains of their father and reinter them in a nearby cemetery. Their father had died in 1977, since when the church, church, church hall and vicarage had been demolished and the cremated remains had been moved to a new Garden of Rest, which the petitioners had been unhappy with, in view of the difficult conditions that visitors had to contend with there. The Chancellor was satisfied that there were exceptional circumstances in justifying the grant of a faculty, as an exception to the normal rule that burial should be permanent: "... the fact that the deceased's ashes were moved at the time of the demolition of the church and the associated work in relation to the Garden of Rest, whereby it can be said that his "final resting place" then lost a degree of permanence, which only the grant of this faculty can restore."

The petitioner's father had lived in Worcestershire for a short time before his death in 1989. The petitioner's late brother, a priest, had decided as a temporary measure to have his father's ashes interred at Fairfield, with a view to the ashes being reinterred in Great Amwell in Hertfordshire with the ashes of his mother after her death, which in fact occurred in 2011. The ashes of both parents were to be interred in a family grave at Great Amwell. Most of the family lived in or near Great Amwell, and the petitioner's father had lived in a cottage next to the churchyard. The Deputy Chancellor decided that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the exhumation and reinterment in the family grave.

The petitioner sought a faculty to authorise the exhumation of the cremated remains of his father from the churchyard and reinterment in the cremated remains section of a nearby cemetery. The reason given was that the deceased's wife had died recently and she had wanted her cremated remains to be interred in the cemetery. The petitioner wished to unite the cremated remains of his father with the cremated remains of his mother in the same grave. In the light of the guidance in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the Deputy Chancellor determined that there were no exceptional reasons to justify the grant of a faculty for the exhumation of the deceased’s remains.

In 1980, the petitioner's late father's ashes were interred in a cemetery in Loughborough. In 1985, the ashes were exhumed and reinterred in the churchyard at East Leake. The petitioner now wished to have his father's ashes re-exhumed and reinterred in another part of the churchyard, with the ashes of the petitioner's mother, who had recently died. The Chancellor determined that there were exceptional factors to justify the grant of a faculty for exhumation. The canopy of a cypress tree had grown over the grave, leaving only one metre clearance above the grave; the area around the grave was overgrown; and the grave was likely to be affected by the tree's roots.

The petitioner wished to have her late husband's cremated remains exhumed and reinterred in Scotland, on a property that the deceased had acquired in 1962. Four relatives and a friend of the deceased objected. They contended that the petitioner did not like them putting floral tributes and cards on the grave and had been observed removing flowers and cards, and that the petitioner's motive for moving the remains to Scotland was to put them where the objectors would find it difficult to put tributes on the deceased's grave. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for exhumation and reinterment and urged restraint on both sides, advising the objectors not to put cards on the grave and expressing the hope that the petitioner would not to remove flowers placed by the objectors.