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Exhumations

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The petitioner applied for a faculty for the exhumation and reinterment of a body buried (due to an administrative error of the burial authority) in a grave reserved for a member of his family, as part of a block of graves reserved for the family. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty on the grounds that (a) the desire of the petitioner's family to keep family burials in a rectangular block was just a 'personal preference', which was outweighed by the distress which would be caused to the family of the deceased and the Christian theology of the permanence of burial (the burial authority were willing to grant an exclusive right of burial for the petitioner's family in a plot adjacent to the 'block'); and (b) there had been a delay of one year between the burial in the wrong grave and the lodging of a petition.

The Petitioner sought a faculty to authorise the exhumation of the body of his father from the cemetery at Bloxwich, the interment having taken place in 1985. The Petitioner proposed that his father's remains should be reburied in a recently opened cemetery at Strawberry Lane, Cheslyn Hay, which had been laid out on land which the deceased had formerly farmed. After considering Re Blagdon Cemetery and other judgments, the Chancellor concluded that "the fact that a new cemetery or the like is created after the interment in circumstances where that new cemetery is thought to be a more fitting resting place for the remains in question than the place where they are interred will not, save in the most extreme of cases, be capable of being a special circumstance justifying exhumation."

The petitioner's father's body had been buried in a triple depth grave in 1976. In 1999 the cremated remains of the petitioner's grandfather had been buried in the same grave at a depth of two feet. The petitioner's mother died and before her death she had expressed a wish for a coffin burial in the same grave as her husband, but this could not be achieved without disturbing the cremated remains in the grave. The Chancellor granted a faculty to allow the cremated remains to be exhumed and reinterred at the head of the grave, in order to allow the burial of the petitioner's mother's body with that of her husband.

The Chancellor granted a faculty to allow the exhumation of the body of the petitioner's father, who died in 1992, in order that the body might be cremated and the ashes taken to Italy to be interred with the cremated remains of the petitioner's mother, who died in 2015, in a family grave in the village where the petitioners' parents had been brought up and were married.

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.

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 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.