Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Exhumations

Display:
Sort By:

The Chancellor granted a faculty to authorise the exhumation of the remains of a Buddhist who had been buried in 1994 in a consecrated  part of Southern Cemetery Manchester, so that the remains could be cremated and the ashes placed with the ashes of his wife, who died in 2016, in the Buddhist Temple of Manchester Fo Guan Shan. At the time of the interment in 1994, the family was unaware that the burial was in a Church of England consecrated part of the cemetery, and also at that time there was no facility in Manchester for the storage of cremated remains in accordance with the Buddhist faith.

The judgment contains a discussion of the principles to be considered upon an application for a Faculty to authorise large-scale exhumation from a disused burial ground, in order to allow for deconsecration and redevelopment. At the end of the judgment is a note by Timothy Briden.

Faculty refused for the exhumation from a cemetery of the cremated remains of a child buried in 1960, and reinterment in the churchyard of a parish to which the parents had moved. The Chancellor took into account the time since the interment, and also did not accept the Petitioner's argument that the deterioration in the care of the cemetery justified him in making an exception to the presumption against exhumation.

In her will, Mrs. Florence Pearson impliedly expressed a wish to have her ashes and those of her late husband scattered off Beachy Head. To this end the petitioner, as Mrs. Pearson's executor, applied for permission to have Mr. Pearson's ashes exhumed from the Robin Hood Cemetery. The Chancellor did not find any sufficient exceptional reason to justify him granting a faculty.

The petitioner requested permission to exhume the cremated remains of her late husband from the churchyard at Aby and reinter them in the cemetery in Horncastle. The reasons she gave for wanting to move her father's remains were: (1) the access to the churchyard was over a field, which was difficult in wet weather; (2) rabbits had burrowed under her father's grave; (3) she wished her father's ashes to be moved to a cemetery nearer to her, which would make it easier for her family to visit the grave; and (4) she felt that her late husband was 'alone' in the churchyard at Aby. Applying the principles in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], the Chancellor did not find any special reasons to justify him granting a faculty.

The Chancellor found special reasons to authorise the exhumation from a cemetery of the cremated remains of a Chinese national, and re-interment in another cemetery, where an area of graves was reserved for members of the Chinese community, though the remains were not to go in a family grave as such: "If my decision were otherwise, the Chinese Christian Church might well feel deeply aggrieved that exhumations may be allowed for non-Chinese Christians for burial in family surroundings (albeit in one grave) while for cultural reasons that possibility is denied to their own community." The judgment contains a detailed discussion of the decisions of the appellate courts and the rule of precedent.

Following Re Blagdon Cemetery, Faculty for exhumation refused, as no exceptional circumstances.

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.

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