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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 petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of his father exhumed from one plot in the cemetery and reinterred in another plot with the cremated remains of his recently deceased mother. The reasons given for the application were: (1) the petitioner's father's burial plot was close to the entrance of the cemetery, and when members of the family visited the plot, all other people visiting the cemetery would be passing by them; (2) there was no convenient seat at which to sit and reflect; and (3) the plot was next to a gully cover. The Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioner genuinely found the location of the plot unsuitable, but he could not find any exceptional reason to justify exhumation.

The petitioner's husband's cremated remains had been interred in the cemetery at Stoke by Clare in 2001. Since that time, the petitioner had moved to Haverhill. By reason of her age and cuts in local transport, the petitioner was now finding it difficult to visit her husband's grave, and she wished to have his remains exhumed and reinterred in Haverhill Cemetery. The Chancellor was unable to grant a faculty, as he found that the circumstances did not provide an exception such as the law required him to find before permitting an exhumation.

The petitioner's mother's (a Belgian Roman Catholic) had been buried in an unconsecrated part of Streatham Park Cemetery. The petitioner's father had been buried in a consecrated part of the cemetery, and in the same grave as the petiitoner's father's still-born sister. The father's interment had been arranged by the petitioner's late grandparents. The petitioner believed that his father had always wanted to be buried with his mother, so that the grandparents had failed to carry out the wishes of the father. Also, the petitioner was unhappy about the lack of maintenance of the area in which the graves were situated. The petitioner proposed that the remains of his parents should be exhumed and reinterred together in the town in Belgium where his parents had been married, and where they had relatives. The Chancellor agreed to the exhumation of the father's remains (the exhumation of the mother's remains from unconsecrated ground would reqire a Home Office licence) and reinterment in the Belgian cemetery. The Chancellor refused to grant an additional request of the petitioner to have the remains of his father's still-born sister exhumed and reinterred in a cemetery at Maidstone, where the petitioner's grandparents were interred in separate graves.

By mistake, the body of a lady was interred in the wrong grave, namely, in a grave reserved for a married couple, of whom the wife's body had already been interred in the grave. The mistake only came to light when the husband who had reserved the grave died and arrangements were made for his interment with the remains of his wife. The husband's remains were temporarily interred in an unconsecrated grave. The Chancellor granted a faculty for the exhumation of the remains of the lady buried in the wrong grave, in order that they could be transferred to the grave where they should have been buried, so that the remains of the man could be exhumed and reinterred with the remains of his wife.

The Chancellor granted a faculty to authorise the exhumation of cremated remains, so that they could be reinterred in the same grave at a greater depth, in order to allow the interment above them of the cremated remains of another member of the family.

The petitioner wished to exhume the cremated remains of his late wife from Sutton Cemetery and reinter them at the North East Surrey Crematorium in Morden. He had agreed to his wife's ashes being interred at Sutton in the grave of his wife's mother and grandmother. The Petitioner expected that he too could have his ashes buried with those of his wife in due course. However, owing to a rift between the petitioner and his wife's sisters, the sisters would not agree to the petitioner's ashes being buried with those of his wife. The Chancellor decided that this was an exceptional case where he could grant a faculty for exhumation and reinterment, so that the petitioner's ashes could be buried in the same grave as the ashes of his wife in due time.

This is an anonymised judgment. The petitioner proposed to be buried in the same grave as her late sister and parents. However, when her sister's husband died, his cremated remains were interred in the same grave, notwithstanding that a granddaughter of the late sister had specifically asked the parish priest not to inter the husband's remains in the same grave, alleging that the husband had subjected her to repeated sexual abuse when she was young, and it would cause great distress to the family to have his remains in the same grave where the remains of some members of the family were already interred and where other members of the family wished their remains to be interred. The Chancellor decided that the continuing family distress which would be caused by allowing the husband's remains to be left in the grave amounted to exceptional circumstances justifying exhumation. He therefore granted a faculty for the exhumation of the husband's cremated remains and for reinterment of the remains in another churchyard.

The Ambassador of the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia petitioned the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Oxford for permission to exhume the remains of Queen Maria of Yugoslavia from the consecrated Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore for reinterment in the unconsecrated family crypt in St George’s Church, Oplenac, in the city of Topola, Serbia. Although a faculty would not normally be granted for exhumation where reinterment would not take place in consecrated ground, the Chancellor was satisfied that the remains would be reinterred in "a place of real permanence", namely the royal mausoleum in Serbia, and he accordingly granted a faculty.

The petitioner sought the exhumation of the cremated remains of her father, interred in 1977, in order to comply with the wish of her late mother, who died in 2013, that the ashes of both parents might be scattered together on the banks of the river Tyne in the village where the couple had met, courted and been married. The Chancellor determined that he was unable to grant a Faculty for two reasons: (1) beginning with the presumption that Christian burial should be regarded as final, and therefore exhumation should only be allowed in exceptional circumstances, the Court of Arches, in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], expressly considered the case of a change of mind on the part of the relatives who had brought about the original interment and stated that this “should not be treated as an acceptable ground for authorising exhumation”; (2) where remains have been committed to the care of the Church, they should only be disturbed if the Court can be satisfied that appropriate arrangements are in place for the continuing protection of the remains.

The petitioner's father had died in 2017 and was buried in the cemetery in Stafford, in one half of a double grave, so that the petitioner's mother could be buried next to her husband in due course. The petitioner and her mother intended to remain in Stafford, but circumstances changed and they moved to Anglesey. The petitioner wished to move her father's remains for reburial in Anglesey, where the petitioner's mother could in due course be buried next to her husband. The Deputy Chancellor refused to grant a faculty. Following the guidance of the Court of Arches in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the fact that the petitioner's mother (aged 95) was infirm and could no longer manage the journey to Stafford was not capable of being an exceptional circumstance such as to justify exhumation.