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Exhumations

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The facts of the case were that the petitioner wished to have the body of his son, who was stillborn in 1998, exhumed from an area of the cemetery set aside for the remains of children and reinterred in a burial chamber in the same cemetery with the body of the petitioner's wife, who had died in 2020, the burial chamber being large enough for the petitioner's remains to be interred in it in due course, thus creating a family grave. In his judgment the Chancellor gives his reasons for having already granted a faculty for exhumation. The judgment contains a discussion of the approach of the courts in the leading cases relating to exhumation.

The petitioner wished to exhume the body of her still-born son who was buried in an oak coffin in the cemetery in 1991 and to have the remains cremated and the ashes placed in a designated rose garden area at Landican Cemetery, where the remains of her own mother and brother had been placed. The petitioner's former partner opposed the exhumation, claiming to be the father of the child and the owner of rights of burial in the grave, whereas the petitioner claimed that he was not the father, and that she had conceived the child as the result of a relationship with another man during a brief separation of the petitioner and her former partner. There were allegations on both sides of interference with items placed on the grave. The Chancellor determined that exhumation was unnecessary and encouraged the parties, with the help of the cemetery manager, to reach an agreement about the future care of the grave.

Two of the petitioners applied for a faculty for exhumation, in order to establish by DNA testing whether the person it was proposed to be exhumed was their father. The objectors were the brother and sister of the deceased. An Irish Court was holding an award made under the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002, the deceased having been abused in a residential institution when he was young. Establishing whether the two petitioners were the children of the deceased would determine whether they were entitled to the award. The Chancellor determined that this was an exceptional case where it was appropriate to grant a faculty.

The remains of a child who died at three days old were buried in Loughborough Cemetery. The family subsequently moved to Australia and sought a faculty to allow the exhumation of the baby's remains, so that they might be cremated and placed in a niche in a cemetery in Australia where the parents had reserved niches for their own remains. Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] considered. The Chancellor was unable to find sufficient reason to justify an exception to the general principle of permanence in respect of Christian burial. Petition dismissed.

The petitioners, father and daughter, applied for a faculty to exhume the remains of the father's late wife's cremated remains from a cremated remains plot in the cemetery, for reinterment in a full grave plot in the same cemetery, which had already been purchased by the father and two of his daughters. The father had realised after the interment that he would not be able to be buried with his wife's remains, as he was a Roman Catholic and he believed that the Roman Catholic Church required its members to have full body burial. The Chancellor decided to grant a faculty. The determing factors were: (1) there had not been a long period between the interment and the husband's realisation of the frustration of his desire to be buried with his wife; (2) the husband had had to make a quick decision about a plot for his wife at a traumatic time when he was unable clearly to think through the consequences; and (3) the remains of his wife would be reinterred in a family grave, thus releasing a cremation plot.

The Petitioner applied for leave to appeal against the decision of the Chancellor earlier in the year not to allow exhumation. Application dismissed.

The petitioner, aged 88 years, wished to have the remains of his late wife exhumed from Southern Cemetery, Manchester, and reinterred in Mill Lane Cemetery, near Cheadle, about six miles away, closer to where the petitioner now lived, as he was finding it increasingly difficult to visit her grave. The Chancellor found no exceptional reasons which would justify him in authorising the exhumation and reinterment

Faculty refused for exhumation from the cemetery at Battle and reinterment in the cemetery at Petworth, near the petitioner's home, the Chancellor finding no special reason to allow exhumation within the principles laid down by the Court of Arches in Re Blagdon.

The petition related to a family grave. The grave had originally been reserved in 1924 and the deed giving rights of burial in the grave had eventually become vested in one of the petitioners ("A"). The grave already contained a number of interments of family members', including the remains of A's twin brother. In 2016, the cremated remains of A's uncle and aunt were interred in the grave, without A's consent. There now appeared to be no guarantee that it would be possible for A's remains to be buried in due time in the grave of his twin brother. The burial authority admitted an oversight in allowing the burial of the remains of the aunt and uncle without A’s consent. A's cousin said that it had always been his parents' wish to be buried with members of their family, including their own son. The Chancellor had to determine whether the aunt and uncle's remains should be moved, to allow A's remains to be buried in the grave, or whether to allow the remains of the aunt and uncle to stay in the grave. The Chancellor, after considering the decisions in Blagdon, Alsager, Twyford and Fairmile, determined not to grant a faculty for exhumation.

The petitioners applied for the temporary exhumation of the cremated remains of their brother from their father's grave, so that their mother could be buried in the same grave and the brother's cremated remains then returned to the grave. The Chancellor granted a faculty.