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Exhumations

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The petitioner's daughter died, whilst still a child, in 2011. The petitioner and her husband had wanted a triple depth grave for their only child and themselves, but a triple depth grave was not possible because of the ground conditions The petitioner's husband died in 2020 and was buried in a grave about 400 yards away in the same cemetery. The petitioner now wished to have the remains of her daughter exhumed and reinterred in her husband's grave, next to which the petitioner had already reserved a grave for herself. The Chancellor decided that "exceptional circumstances justifying exhumation do exist in this case. The establishment of what is in effect a family grave will be expressive of family unity, which should be encouraged."

The petitioner's father died on 17 September 2020 and his remains were buried in a consecrated double depth grave in the cemetery, it being intended that in due time the petitioner's mother's remains should be buried in the same grave. The petitioner's mother died in September 2021 and shortly before that a very large memorial, which did not comply with the cemetery regulations, was erected on an adjacent plot. The family felt that the adjacent memorial was so large that it seriously overshadowed the grave of the petitioner's father. It was therefore decided to bury the petitioner's mother's remains in another double depth plot in the same cemetery and to seek permission to move the petitioner's father's remains to his wife's grave. The Chancellor considered that the family's concern was reasonable in the circumstances and, because the uncertainty as to whether or when the offending memorial could be modified or removed was likely to cause prolonged anxiety to the family, he decided to avoid any further distress by granting a faculty for exhumation and reinterment of the petitioner's father's remains.

The petitioner applied for a faculty for the exhumation of the remains of her mother, interred in Mortlake Cemetery in 1978, and for reinterment in a cemetery in the USA, near to where the petitioner lived. The Petitioner was the deceased's only surviving child and had lived in the USA since 1953. The Petitioner's children and their families all lived near to her  and an area in the cemetery near to her home had been reserved for the burial of members of her family, where one of her daughters was already buried. After considering the principles laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the Deputy Chancellor determined that there were exceptional circumstances allowing her to grant a faculty for exhumation, so that all the members of the family could be buried together in the same cemetery.

In January 1995 the cremated remains of Harold Bristeir were interred in plot 15000 in the cemetery. It was the intention at the time that when his wife Joan Bristier died, her remains would be interred in the same plot. In March 1995, Mrs. Bristeir's brothers, Michael and Roland Durber reserved rights of burial in the adjacent plot 14999. When Roland died in 2011, his remains were interred in plot 15000, owing to a mistake by the burial authority. This mistake came to light in 2017, when Mrs. Bristeir died, and the error was only discovered on the day before her funeral. In the circumstances, Mrs. Bristeir's daughter reluctantly agreed for her mother's ashes going in plot 14999. However, she later regretted that decision in haste and applied for the exhumation of her mother's ashes and Roland's ashes and their reinterment in the correct plots. The Chancellor found that, owing to the mistake by the burial authority, he was justified in allowing the two exhumations and reinterments.

In 1997 the deceased had requested the reservation of the grave at the foot of the grave of her late husband. Owing to an administrative mistake the wrong plot number was allocated, but the deceased did not realise that the grave number was incorrect. At the funeral, the family realised that the grave for the deceased had been dug in the wrong place, but felt unable to do other than proceed with the funeral. They subsequently sought a faculty for exhumation and reinterment in the intended grave. The Chancellor was satisfied that a genuine mistake had been made, which could be regarded as an exception to the presumption of permanence of burial. He therefore granted a faculty for exhumation and reinterment, in order to correct the error.

The petitioner wished to exhume the remains of her mother-in-law ("the deceased") from Peel Cemetery and reinter them in a private chapel called The Chantry, at Crogga, where the remains of the deceased's son and the petitioner's husband were laid. The petitioner's husband was a prominent member of the Roman Catholic community in the island. The Vicar General decided that this was an appropriate exceptional circumstance justifying a departure from the principle of permanence of burial as expressed in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299. He therefore granted a faculty. However, under Isle of Man law remains could be exhumed and reburied only if moved from one piece of consecrated land to another piece of consecrated land (that is land consecrated according to the Anglican tradition), but the Chantry was not so consecrated. Therefore, in addition to the faculty, the petitioner would need to obtain the consent of the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture.

A Faculty was granted for exhumation. The judgment contains a lengthy discussion as to what may amount to “exceptional circumstances” to justify exhumation.

The Petitioner wished to exhume the cremated remains of her late mother from one plot in the consecrated area of the cemetery and reinter them in another consecrated plot in the same cemetery. The Petitioner's father had died in 2006 and had been buried in the cemetery. In 2007 the Petitioner purchased a plot for her mother near to her father's plot, and when her mother died in 2010 the Petitioner arranged for her mother's remains to be buried in the separate plot which she had purchased, even though her mother had expressed a wish, shortly before she died, to be buried with her husband. The Petitioner subsequently felt guilty at not having carried out her mother's wishes and now wished to have her mother's remains interred with her father's.The Deputy Chancellor decided that there were no special circumstances within the guidelines laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] to justify him in granting a faculty.

The petitioner, after discovering that the remains of her husband (a Roman Catholic of an Italian family) had been interred in a consecrated part of Putney Vale cemetery, wished to have his remains exhumed and reinterred in unconsecrated ground. The Chancellor granted a faculty on the basis that a mistake had occurred, which justified exhumation. He agreed that the exhumation could take place, provided that the remains were reinterred in the unconsecrated churchyard of the the petitioner's church, the Church of Our Lady of Pity and St. Simon Stock in Putney.

The petitioner, a Buddhist, applied for three faculties to permit the exhumation of the remains of his brother, who died in 1991, his grandmother, who died in 1993, and his father, who died in 2014, all Buddhists, from the consecrated area of Putney Vale Cemetery, for reinterment in the unconsecrated part of the cemetery. After the third interment, the petitioner had been advised by his family that, according to Buddhist tradition, it was inappropriate to bury Buddhists in consecrated ground and that it would cause "bad Karma" for the family. The petitioners sought to rectify what his family perceived to be a mistake. Faculties granted by the Chancellor: " I am glad that I have felt able to grant these petitions. The faith of Church of England is very different to the Buddhist faith and its views about the appropriate treatment of the remains of those who have died evidently diverge but the views of Mr Khiet Kham Hong and his family are genuinely held and are appropriately treated with respect.