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Alphabetical Index of all judgments on this web site as at 20 January 2022

Index by Dioceses of 2021 judgments on this web site, as at 20 January 2022

Exhumations

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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.

The peitioner wished to have the body of her husband exhumed from the cemetery and reinterred in a Roman Catholic cemetery (both were Roman Catholics). She claimed that there had been a mistake in the burial, as the plot was unsuitable, being close to the edge of a five foot drop and it would not support a memorial. The Chancellor stated that this was not a case of 'mistake', so as to justify the grant of a faculty, but he nevertheless granted a faculty for exhumation on the basis of the petitioner not having been made aware of the significance of consecration in accordance with the rites of the Church of England.

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.

The petitioner sought permission to exhume the remains of her child (who had died, aged five, from a brain tumour), in order to have the remains cremated. She then wished to keep the cremated remains at home. The funeral had involved a humanist ceremony, but the remains had been buried in a consecrated part of the cemetery. The child's parents were unaware that the grave was in consecrated ground. The petitioner had subsequently regretted the interment and had found the situation difficult to come to terms with. The Chancellor found that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty. The judgment contains a discussion as to whether Articles 8 and 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights applied to this case.

After considering the principles in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the Chancellor found special reasons why he should permit the exhumation of the remains of a young person of Chinese descent and reinterment in another section of the cemetery where all other members of her family and members of the local Chinese community were buried or had reserved graves.

The petitioner's father's cremated remains were interred in Epperstone churchyard in Nottinghamshire in 2004. After he died, the petitioner moved to Bradford-on-Avon. In 2013 the petitioner's mother moved to a nursing home in Bradford-on-Avon and she died in 2018. The petitioner wished to have her father's ashes exhumed from Epperstone churchyard and interred with her mother's ashes in Bradford-on-Avon, because it would be inconvenient for the petitioner to travel regularly between Bradford-on-Avon and Nottinghamshire to visit her father's grave. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty, as inconvenience did not amount to an exceptional reason for departing from the general principle that Christian burial is to be seen as permanent.

The Petitioner applied for a faculty to exhume her father's ashes and reinter them in a different part of the churchyard. The undertaker's gravedigger had dug the existing grave too close to the footpath for the proposed memorial, so that there would have been a danger of the grave and memorial being trodden on by members of the public. This was causing distress to the petitioner's mother. The Chancellor authorised the exhumation and reinterment.