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Alphabetical Index of all judgments on this web site as at 4 June 2020

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Exhumations

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Faculty granted for exhumation. Principles in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] considered and special circumstances found.

The petitioner's mother's ashes had been interred in the South London Cemetery in 1993. The intention of the family at that time had been that the interment would be temporary, until the petitioner's father died, when the remains of both parents would be buried together. They had not been informed that the interment had been into consecrated ground, and that a faculty would be needed to authorise the removal of the petitioner's mother's remains at a later date. Before he died, the petitioner's father expressed a wish to be buried, rather than cremated. The petitioner wished to have her mother's ashes exhumed and interred with her father's body in Epsom Cemetery. The Chancellor decided that a mistake had been made and that he should authorise the exhumation and reinterment as requested. He did not insist that the ashes should be reinterred in consecrated ground.

In 1999 the petitioner reserved a grave in the cemetery next to the grave of his late sister. He was given a deed recording the reservation. In 2016 he discovered that someone had been buried in the grave he had reserved. He complained to the burial authority, who said the register had been amended to record a different grave number. The Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioner had not agreed to a change of reserved grave. The petitioner, first directly and then through solicitors, failed to persuade the burial authority to arrange an exhumation and reinterment in another grave. He therefore applied for a faculty. Whilst accepting that there had been an administrative mistake by the burial authority, the Chancellor decided not to grant a faculty, because of "the possibility of real consequences" for the family of the person buried in the grave and the alternative possibilities for the petitioner to be buried in another nearby grave, or in the same grave as his sister, or "the prospect of exhuming [his sister's] remains so that they could be reburied in a plot with space to the side".

The petitioner wished to exhume his wife's remains from a grave (intended as a double grave for his wife and himself) in an area which was regularly waterlogged in winter, and to reinter the remains in another part of the same churchyard. The Chancellor decided that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty for exhumation and reinterment.

The parish priest applied for a restoration order following the interment in the churchyard without permission of a portion of the cremated remains of the novelist Tom Sharpe, together with various other items. The Chancellor granted a restoration order.

The body of a woman was buried in the grave of her brother. The brother's widow and son were not consulted by the woman's sons or the funeral director or the parish priest. Upon discovering what had happened, the son applied for a faculty for exhumation, as he felt that he and his mother should have been consulted and he would have objected to the interment in his father's grave, had he known about it. The Chancellor took the view that the woman's sons had kept quiet about the existence of the son and widow, in order to have their mother buried in an existing grave in Cubley, where she did not have a legal right to be buried. However, the Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for exhumation. Although it was regrettable that the petitioner and his mother had not been consulted, the petitioner had "not established any basis sufficient in law based on any property right analogous to a reservation, or otherwise, to support his petition for exhumation".

The petitioners' daughter had died in 1980 and her ashes had been buried in the churchyard at Ham. The Petitioners had subsequently made their permanent home in Tasmania, but they had purchased the right to be buried in due time in a plot in Kingston General Cemetery. The petitioners wished, on the occasion of the first of them to die, to have their ashes interred in the reserved grave in the cemetery and to have their daughter's ashes exhumed from the churchyard and interred in the same grave. The Chancellor granted a faculty.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her husband exhumed from the churchyard at Leyland and reinterred in a family grave in the churchyard at Wrea Green containing four members of the family, which had been her husband's wish. But at the time of her husband's death, the petitioner, who had suffered from leukaemia for some time and was now in hospital, and had her husband's remains interred at Leyland, whilst she 'was in shock (he died suddenly) and therefore did not act rationally or upon his wishes'. She wished her cremated remains in due course to be buried in the family grave together with the cremated remains of her husband. The Chancellor considered that this was a case where there were exceptional circumstances to justify granting a faculty. Firstly, the reinterment would be into an existing family grave and, secondly, there had been a mistake by the petitioner in her shock and grief, in that her husband had expressed a wish to be buried in the family grave at Wrea Green, and she now wished for corrective action to be taken.

Faculty granted for exhumation of cremated remains interred by mistake in a grave already reserved by Faculty. Order for costs against the incumbent, whose error in interring the remains in a reserved grave had given rise to the proceedings.

The petitioner wished to exhume the cremated remains of her late father and reinter them elsewhere in the same churchyard in the grave of her mother, who died one year after her father. The Chancellor considered that there were special circumstances which allowed him to grant a faculty.