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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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Faculty granted for the exhumation of the cremated remains of three family members from inside a church which had been closed for public worship, and reinterment in a family grave in a local cemetery.

The petitioner applied for a faculty for the exhumation and reinterment of a body buried (due to an administrative error of the burial authority) in a grave reserved for a member of his family, as part of a block of graves reserved for the family. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty on the grounds that (a) the desire of the petitioner's family to keep family burials in a rectangular block was just a 'personal preference', which was outweighed by the distress which would be caused to the family of the deceased and the Christian theology of the permanence of burial (the burial authority were willing to grant an exclusive right of burial for the petitioner's family in a plot adjacent to the 'block'); and (b) there had been a delay of one year between the burial in the wrong grave and the lodging of a petition.

The Petitioner sought a faculty to authorise the exhumation of the body of his father from the cemetery at Bloxwich, the interment having taken place in 1985. The Petitioner proposed that his father's remains should be reburied in a recently opened cemetery at Strawberry Lane, Cheslyn Hay, which had been laid out on land which the deceased had formerly farmed. After considering Re Blagdon Cemetery and other judgments, the Chancellor concluded that "the fact that a new cemetery or the like is created after the interment in circumstances where that new cemetery is thought to be a more fitting resting place for the remains in question than the place where they are interred will not, save in the most extreme of cases, be capable of being a special circumstance justifying exhumation."

The petitioner's father's body had been buried in a triple depth grave in 1976. In 1999 the cremated remains of the petitioner's grandfather had been buried in the same grave at a depth of two feet. The petitioner's mother died and before her death she had expressed a wish for a coffin burial in the same grave as her husband, but this could not be achieved without disturbing the cremated remains in the grave. The Chancellor granted a faculty to allow the cremated remains to be exhumed and reinterred at the head of the grave, in order to allow the burial of the petitioner's mother's body with that of her husband.

The Chancellor granted a faculty to allow the exhumation of the body of the petitioner's father, who died in 1992, in order that the body might be cremated and the ashes taken to Italy to be interred with the cremated remains of the petitioner's mother, who died in 2015, in a family grave in the village where the petitioners' parents had been brought up and were married.

A husband and wife sought permission to exhume the cremated remains of the wife's father ("the deceased"), who died in 1982, from the consecrated part of Gravesend Cemetery with a view to the remains being scattered in the Thames View Crematorium along with the cremated remains of the deceased's late wife, who had recently died. The Chancellor could find no special circumstance which would justify him in granting a faculty.

When his mother's body was interred in the cemetery in 1989, the petitioner obtained rights of burial for himself and his wife in the adjoining plot. In 2018, the burial authority dug a grave in the plot reserved by the petitioner. The burial authority's mistake was only discovered on the morning of the intended burial. Rather than insist that the burial authority stopped the funeral, the petitioner, out of compassion for the family concerned, allowed the burial to take place in the plot he had reserved. The petitioner then applied for a faculty to have his mother's body exhumed with a view to reinterment in a burial chamber on the petitioner's farm land, the chamber being a secure structure, and capable of accommodating the bodies of the petitioner and his wife after their deaths. It would then be completely sealed by the family. The Chancellor determined that there were exceptional circumstances to justify him granting a faculty as requested.

The petitioners applied for a faculty to authorise the exhumation of their father's ashes and reinterment in the plot containing the ashes of their mother. The father had died in 2006. His ashes had been buried in the cemetery and a memorial placed over the plot. Space was left for the name of the mother on the memorial. When the mother died in 2017, it was discovered that the father's ashes had been buried only two feet deep, so it was not possible to inter a further casket of ashes in the same plot. The petitioners therefore had their mother's ashes buried at double depth in a nearby plot and applied for a faculty to move their father's ashes to the same plot. The Chancellor decided that this was a case where he could exercise his discretion in allowing exhumation and reinterment, on the basis that the burial authority had made a mistake by failing to make it clear that a further burial in the first plot would not be possible.

Upon consideration of the principles laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], the Acting Chancellor granted a faculty to permit the exhumation of the remains of the petitioners' mother from Hickling Cemetery, in order that the remains might be interred with the remains of the petitioners' father in Whatton-in-the-Vale churchyard: "The combination of the initial mistake as to whether the burial took place in consecrated ground, the intention to re-inter together in a family grave and the unanimous family wishes together create sufficient good and proper reasons for this exceptional order to be made."

The petitioner wished to move the cremated remains of her mother and her brother from one cemetery to another. The Chancellor could identify no exceptional circumstances which could enable him properly to exercise my discretion to grant the Petition and therefore refused it.