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Exhumations

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The petitioner wished to move her mother's cremated remains from Calverley churchyard to Otley Cemetery. The Chancellor could find no special circumstances to enable him to grant a faculty.

The Petitioner and his wife, having moved from Castle Bytham to Grantham, wished to exhume the cremated remains of their late son and re-inter them in Grantham Cemetery. The grounds for making the application were: (1) the petitioner and his wife, due to their age and frailty, were unable to visit the grave at Castle Bytham; and (2) the Petitioner and his wife had purchased a grave at Grantham Cemetery with the intention that their son's remains should be placed their and their own cremated remains would be placed in the same grave in due course. The Chancellor stated that, following the principles laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], he could not grant a faculty on the first ground, but he granted a faculty on the second ground, because a family grave had been established.

A Faculty was refused for the exhumation from the local cemetery of the cremated remains of the petitioner’s late husband, for re-interment in the same grave as the petitioner’s late son in the St. Mary’s churchyard, Bognor Regis. The Chancellor could find no special reason or circumstance to justify him overriding the normal presumption that burial should be final. 

The Petitioners' daughter died aged 10 in 1982 in tragic circumstances, and the petitioners had no part in the funeral arrangements, which included interment of ashes in a consecrated part of Cheshunt Cemetery. Upon making enquiries in 2017 about the possibility of having her remains buried next to those of her daughter, the mother discovered that the ground in which her daughter's remains were interred was consecrated. The petitioners, both atheists, would not have agreed to the interment of their daughter's remains in consecrated ground, had they been aware of the situation at the time of their daughter's death. And in view of her atheistic beliefs, the mother could not contemplate being buried in consecrated ground next to her daughter. The Deputy Chancellor determined that, notwithstanding the passage of time since the interment in 1982, this was a case of exceptional circumstances based on a fundamental mistake at the time of the interment. The Deputy Chancellor therefore granted a faculty for exhumation and reinterment in an unconsecrated part of another cemetery.

The petitioners' baby had tragically died aged two days in 2004. The child's cremated remains had been interred next to the graves of other children in a consecrated area of Cheshunt Cemetery. The petitioners had been happy with the location of their baby's grave and with a Christian service conducted by a priest, though they stated in papers before the hearing that they were "from non-religious families". The petitioners were now planning to move to a town 28 miles away and had in mind moving abroad in 5 or 6 years' time. They now regretted the decision to have the baby's ashes interred and wished to have the ashes exhumed, so that they could keep the ashes with them wherever they moved. The mother intended in due time to be buried with her baby's ashes.  Following the guidance of the Court of Arches in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299 (“….a change of mind as to the place of burial on the part of relatives or others responsible for the interment should not be treated as an acceptable ground for authorising exhumation ...” and “... remains are not to be regarded as 'portable' at a later date, because relatives move elsewhere and have difficulty visiting the grave ...”), the Deputy Chancellor could find no special circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty.

The Dean of Arches granted leave to appeal against the decision of the Deputy Chancellor in Re Cheshunt Cemetery (No. 2) [2018] ECC StA 2 not to allow the exhumation of the cremated remains of the petitioners' baby son. Leave was granted on two grounds: (a) the Deputy Chancellor was wrong ... to categorise the Appellants’ case as “one of change of mind rather than a (potentially operative) type of mistake ... namely a lack of understanding as to the significance of interment in consecrated ground”; and (b) the Deputy Chancellor thereby failed to consider whether this mistake was capable of constituting exceptional circumstances within the law as laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam. 299 and/or to explain why this was not so.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her father exhumed from the cemetery at Bedworth and have them reinterred with the remains of her mother, already interred in a cemetery in Nuneaton, where three adjoining plots had already been reserved for family interments. The Chancellor determined that this was an appropriate case to allow the removal of remains to a family grave, within  the guidelines laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299.

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for the exhumation of the cremated remains of the petitioner's son so that they might be placed in a niche or columbarium in the garden of the petitioner's home.

Faculty refused for exhumation of cremated remains from a family grave in one part of the churchyard to a double plot for cremated remains in another part of the same churchyard.

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.