Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Exhumations

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The petitioner, on behalf of herself and her six siblings, sought a faculty to authorise the exhumation of her brother's cremated remains from their parents' grave and reinterment in a nearby new grave. The deceased's daughter, believing it had been her father's wish to be interred with his parents, had arranged the interment without consulting the deceased's siblings, who only learned about the interment after it had taken place. It caused them great distress that there had been another interment in their parents' grave. The Chancellor was satisfied that there were exceptional circumstances to justify exhumation, as the grave had "become a focus of disquiet and grievance amongst the family members with a real degree of distress to some."

A widow had reserved by Faculty a grave next to the grave of her late husband. By mistake someone else was buried in the grave reserved for the widow. Faculty granted to the widow for exhumation of the remains of her husband, and reinterment in another part of the churchyard and reservation for her of a grave next to her late husband's new grave.

The petitioner's mother died in 1993, having expressed a wish to be cremated, and her remains were interred in the area set aside for cremated remains in Edgmond churchyard. The Petitioner's father died in 2016, having expressed a wish to be buried near to the remains of his wife, and his body was interred in another part of the same churchyard. The petitioner and his sisters wished to have the cremated remains of their mother exhumed and reinterred in their father's grave, so that both parents' remains would be together in a family grave. The Chancellor considered this an appropriate case in which to grant a faculty, as it was a case where "there is a proper and understandable proposal to reunite the remains of husband and wife in one plot in the same churchyard as currently contains those remains in separate plots".

Faculty sought for exhumation of husband's remains from grave in Norfolk and reinterment in a grave in Co. Atrim, the widow petitioner and her daughter having had to move, "for financial reasons" to live near their family in Co. Antrim. Faculty refused, the Chancellor being unable to find sufficient justification to grant a Faculty within the guidelines set out in the Court of Arches decision in Re Blagdon.

Faculty refused for the exhumation of cremated remains from a family grave in Foston, Lincolnshire, and reinterment in another family grave at Beeston Regis, Norfolk, the remains having been interred 28 years previously.

The petitioner, who was aged 81 and used a wheelchair, found access to her mother’s grave in Gunton churchyard very difficult, as the grave was a good way back from the churchyard path. She therefore applied for a faculty to authorise the exhumation of her mother’s remains and re-interment in a nearby cemetery. The Chancellor, after considering the principles laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, determined that no special reasons existed which would justify an exception to the norm of permanence of Christian burial.

The Chancellor, taking into account the guidance in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], determined that there were special reasons for permitting exhumation and reinterment. The cremated remains of the father of the three petitioning children had been buried in a parish churchyard. At the time it was intended that his wife's cremated remains should be placed with his. When his wife died, the children found that her will said that she wished to be buried in a family grave in a cemetery. They mistakenly felt obliged to comply with the terms of the will, but this defeated the original intention of the mother and the father to be buried together. After the second burial the children regretted not having buried their parents together and made a fairly prompt application to rectify the situation. Accordingly, the Chancellor allowed the cremated remains of the father to be exhumed and reinterred in the family grave in the cemetery.

The Chancellor found that there were special circumstances (as set out in the judgment) which justified him in granting a faculty for exhumation and reinterment in the same churchyard. The petitioner wished to move the cremated remains of his father to the grave of his mother, who had died recently and who had expressed a wish before her death to have her body buried and for her husband's cremated remains to be moved into the same grave, not realising that there could be difficulties in carrying out her wishes.

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."