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Exhumations

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The cremated remains of a father and his son had been interred in adjacent plots. When the mother died, her cremated remains were interred (due to the error of the burial authority which maintained the churchyard) in the grave of her son, rather than with the remains of her husband, as had been her wish. The next of kin proposed that the exhumation of the remains of the father and reinterment in the grave of his wife and son would be preferable to the exhumation of the remains of the mother and reinterment with the remains of her husband. The Chancellor granted a faculty on this basis: "This is an appropriate and desirable result creating as it does a family grave containing the remains of all three members of that family."

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty to allow the petitioner's father's cremated remains to be exhumed and scattered with the petitioner's mother's cremated remains at Skerray in northern Scotland. The petitioner's mother had said before she died that she felt she had made a mistake in having her husband's remains interred at the church and felt it more appropriate for the ashes of both of them to be scattered at Skerray, a place which had meant much to them during their lives. Following the guidelines laid down in the Court of Arches decision in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the Chancellor stated that a change of mind as to a place of interment was not an exceptional circumstance which might justify exhumation. Also, the scattering of ashes would be contrary to the church's duty to protect interred remains, so that, once exhumed, they should be reinterred intact.

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for exhumation. The petitioner wished to exhume the recently interred cremated remains of her husband from the churchyard and reinter them in her garden. The petitioner said that she had had differences with the vicar and for that reason she found it painful and distressing to visit her husband's grave. The Chancellor did not regard these circumstances sufficiently exceptional to justify the grant of a faculty.

The petitioner wished to have the remains of her father ("the deceased") exhumed from the grave immediately next to the grave of his second wife and reinterred in the grave of the deceased's first wife, which grave also contained the remains of the deceased's parents, in order that a new memorial bearing the names of all four members of the family could then be put on the grave. The Chancellor ruled that there were no special circumstances which would justify the grant of a faculty. It appeared that before his death the deceased believed that there was no room for him to be buried in the same grave as his first wife and parents and was content to be buried elsewhere in the churchyard. His second wife died shortly after the deceased from a terminal illness, and it was assumed that they would naturally wish to be buried together after 28 years' marriage. Moreover, 25 years had passed since the deceased's death, and there was no explanation as to why an application had not been made earlier.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of his father exhumed from one plot in the cemetery and reinterred in another plot with the cremated remains of his recently deceased mother. The reasons given for the application were: (1) the petitioner's father's burial plot was close to the entrance of the cemetery, and when members of the family visited the plot, all other people visiting the cemetery would be passing by them; (2) there was no convenient seat at which to sit and reflect; and (3) the plot was next to a gully cover. The Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioner genuinely found the location of the plot unsuitable, but he could not find any exceptional reason to justify exhumation.

The Chancellor granted a faculty to authorise the exhumation of cremated remains, so that they could be reinterred in the same grave at a greater depth, in order to allow the interment above them of the cremated remains of another member of the family.

The Ambassador of the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia petitioned the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Oxford for permission to exhume the remains of Queen Maria of Yugoslavia from the consecrated Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore for reinterment in the unconsecrated family crypt in St George’s Church, Oplenac, in the city of Topola, Serbia. Although a faculty would not normally be granted for exhumation where reinterment would not take place in consecrated ground, the Chancellor was satisfied that the remains would be reinterred in "a place of real permanence", namely the royal mausoleum in Serbia, and he accordingly granted a faculty.

The petitioner applied for permission to exhume the remains of her baby, who had died fifteen years previously aged 12 weeks, following an operation to repair a heart defect. At the time of the baby's death, the petitioner and her former partner had lived in Lancashire, where the baby had been buried, but the petitioner (and her former partner) now lived in Yorkshire. The petitioner claimed that owing to her state of health it was difficult to visit the grave in Lancashire. Her former partner objected to the proposed exhumation and became a party opponent. The Deputy Chancellor, after considering the decisions in Re Christ Church, Alsager [1999] Fam 142, Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, and other exhumation cases, determined that moving the remains of the baby simply so that they were nearer to where the petitioner now lived was not an exceptional reason for authorising an exhumation and he accordingly refused to grant a faculty.

The cremated remains of the petitioner's parents were both buried in separate plots in the cemetery, her mother having died in 2006 and her father in 2015. Her mother's remains had been buried in the grave of her grandmother and her sister. The owner of the grave in which the petitioner's mother's remains were interred (the daughter of the sister) refused to allow the remains of the petitioner's father to be buried in the same plot as his wife, even though the he had expressed in his will a desire to be buried with his wife. The petitioner therefore sought to exhume the remains of her mother and have them reinterred in the grave of her father. Having considered the guidelines in Re Blagdon, as to the circumstance in which exhumation may be allowed (which the Chancellor regarded as non-exclusive), he determined that there were sufficient exceptional circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty to authorise the exhumation and reinterment.

In 1987 the petitioner had reserved for herself a cremation plot in the cemetery immediately next to the plot in which were interred the cremated remains of her parents. In 2016 she noticed that an interment had taken place in the plot which she had reserved. This situation had come about because in 2015 the burial authority had by mistake granted an exclusive right of burial in the same plot to someone else. The petitioner therefore applied for a faculty for exhumation of the cremated remains interred in the plot she had reserved in 1987. The Chancellor determined that this was an appropriate case in which a faculty should be granted, owing to the administrative error which had occurred.