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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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In 1987 the petitioner had reserved for herself a cremation plot in the cemetery immediately next to the plot in which were interred the cremated remains of her parents. In 2016 she noticed that an interment had taken place in the plot which she had reserved. This situation had come about because in 2015 the burial authority had by mistake granted an exclusive right of burial in the same plot to someone else. The petitioner therefore applied for a faculty for exhumation of the cremated remains interred in the plot she had reserved in 1987. The Chancellor determined that this was an appropriate case in which a faculty should be granted, owing to the administrative error which had occurred.

A faculty was granted for exhumation and re-interment in the same grave at a lower level, in order to provide room for further interments.

The petitioner's father died in 1985 and his body was interred in West Norwood Cemetery. The petitioner's mother originally intended to be buried next to her husband. The petitioner's mother died in 2014. Before she died, she expressed to the petitioner a wish to be buried in a family grave in Ireland and to have her husband's body exhumed, cremated and buried with her in the family grave. Considering the the guidelines set out in the judgment in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the Chancellor determined that reinterment in a family grave, and the consequent release of two grave spaces in South London, where burial space was at a premium, would allow him to treat this application as an exception to the general policy against exhumation, and he according granted a faculty.

The petitioner sought a faculty for the exhumation of the remains of the person buried in plot C71 in Wetheral Cemetery ("the deceased"), as the petitioner had purchased plot C71 many years earlier, next to plots reserved for members of her family. There were two pairs of family plots either side of a path. The deceased had reserved plot C77, but unfortunately at the time of his burial, the burial authority's record reading C77 was misread as C71. The deceased's family strongly objected to the exhumation. The burial authority accepted that they had made a mistake and offered the petitioner a choice of plots next to the remaining three family plots. The Deputy Chancellor determined not to grant a faculty. He considered the views of the deceased's family as significant, that the delay in petitioning was also a factor, and he also attached weight to the offer by the burial authority of alternative plots next to the other family plots.

Faculty for exhumation refused. Moving remains nearer to where the family lives not an exceptional circumstance to justify the grant of a Faculty.

The petitioner's husband, a Roman Catholic, had wanted to be buried at Avonview Cemetery, where other family members were buried, but when he died in 1995 no further burials were being allowed at Avonview Cemetery. He was buried at Filton Cemetery in a grave chosen or accepted by the funeral directors. In 2018 burials were resumed at Avonview Cemetery, due to paths and previously unused land being set aside for burials. The petitioner became aware that the area of Filton Cemetery where her husband was buried was consecrated in accordance with the rites of the Church of England. She therefore wished to have his remains exhumed and reinterred at Avonview Cemetery. The Chancellor determined that there had been a mistake by the funeral directors in organising the interment in the Anglican area of Filton Cemetery, which would amount to exceptional circumstances justifying exhumation, as identified in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] 3 WLR 603. The funeral directors were ordered to pay the costs of the petition.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her mother, who died in 1978, exhumed from Wolseley Road Cemetery, in order that the remains might be reinterred with the cremated remains of her father (whose remains had not yet been interred) in a new cemetery at Stile Cop. Applying the principles laid down by the Court of Arches in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the determined that this was not a case where there were special circumstances which would justify the grant of a faculty.

Cremated remains of two people had been buried in a grave already reserved for someone else. The Chancellor granted a Faculty for exhumation and reinterment in another part of the cemetery, on the ground that a genuine mistake had been made. Normally, the Chancellor would have directed that the exhumation should take place as soon as possible, but in this he acceded to the request of the petitioner, out of respect for his particular faith, that the exhumation should not take place within one year of the interment, whilst at the same time expressing the hope that an earlier date might be agreed,in order to alleviate the concerns of the person who had reserved the grave.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of his late wife, who died in 2013, exhumed from the churchyard at Barnby Dun, in South Yorkshire, and re-interred in Littlehampton Cemetery, in West Sussex. The petitioner and his two sons lived in West Sussex, and considered it to have been a mistake for the deceased's remains to have been buried in Barnby Dun, close to the remains of her parents. Also, one of the petitioner's sons, who was very close to his mother, suffered from severe physical disabilities, and was unable to visit his mother's grave 250 miles away without support. Following the test for exceptionality suggested by the Chancery Court of York in Re Christ Church Alsager [1998] 3 WLR 1394 -  "Is there a good and proper reason for exhumation, that reason being likely to be regarded as acceptable by right thinking members of the Church at large?" - the Chancellor decided that this  was an exceptional case which justified the grant of a faculty for exhumation.