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Alphabetical Index of all judgments on this web site as at 20 January 2022

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Exhumations

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The petitioner's late father had been buried in grave C17 in the churchyard. There had been an understanding by the petitioner that his mother would be buried in grave C18, next to her husband, and the petitioner had applied to reserve grave C19. The petitioner discovered that someone else had been buried in grave C18. He therefore applied for his father's remains to be exhumed and reinterred in the row behind row C, row D, so that the petitioner and his parents would in due time all be buried next to each other. On the recommendation of the gravedigger, the Chancellor granted a faculty authorising a trench to be dug from the petitioner's father's grave to the grave space behind, so that the coffin could then be slid into the new position in row D. The Chancellor emphasised the importance of an up to date and accurate churchyard plan being kept in the church.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her husband exhumed from the churchyard at Leyland and reinterred in a family grave in the churchyard at Wrea Green containing four members of the family, which had been her husband's wish. But at the time of her husband's death, the petitioner, who had suffered from leukaemia for some time and was now in hospital, and had her husband's remains interred at Leyland, whilst she 'was in shock (he died suddenly) and therefore did not act rationally or upon his wishes'. She wished her cremated remains in due course to be buried in the family grave together with the cremated remains of her husband. The Chancellor considered that this was a case where there were exceptional circumstances to justify granting a faculty. Firstly, the reinterment would be into an existing family grave and, secondly, there had been a mistake by the petitioner in her shock and grief, in that her husband had expressed a wish to be buried in the family grave at Wrea Green, and she now wished for corrective action to be taken.

Faculty granted for exhumation of cremated remains interred by mistake in a grave already reserved by Faculty. Order for costs against the incumbent, whose error in interring the remains in a reserved grave had given rise to the proceedings.

The petitioner wished to exhume the cremated remains of her late father and reinter them elsewhere in the same churchyard in the grave of her mother, who died one year after her father. The Chancellor considered that there were special circumstances which allowed him to grant a faculty.

The petitioner wished to have the ashes of her mother exhumed and scattered over the hills north of Newtown in Powys. The ashes had been buried in the churchyard at Naunton Beauchamp, at the insistence of the petitioner's former sister-in-law. All the deceased's other children recalled their mother expressing a wish to have her ashes scattered in Wales, and they supported the petitioner's wish. Whilst accpting that this was a borderline case for allowing an exhumation as an exception to the general rule against disturbing human remains, the Chanmcellor decided to grant a faculty to the petitioner: ' ... whilst it is “generally” right that mourners should learn to let go, it appears that she will be unable to do so until her mother’s ashes have been scattered as proposed; only then, it seems to me, will she be able to recover her psychological and spiritual health.'

The petitioner had discovered that the memorial to her husband had not been laid directly over the casket containing his ashes, when she had previously been assured by a churchwarden this that was not the case. (She in fact had taken it upon herself without faculty to move the casket under the memorial.) The petitioner felt that she had been deliberately misled, and she wished to have her husband's ashes exhumed and reinterred in a local cemetery. This had given rise to a breakdown in relationships between the petitioner and the vicar and churchwardens. The petitioner claimed that every time she visited her husband's grave she felt anger and grievance towards the vicar and churchwardens. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for exhumation and reinterment: "The fact that the widow or widower of a person whose remains have been interred in a particular churchyard has strong feelings of anger and grievance towards the incumbent and churchwardens of the particular church cannot justify the exhumation of the remains in question."

Faculty granted for exhumation from  a husband's grave in England and reinterment in the grave of his wife in Australia. The judgment contains a discussion of the decisions in a number of "portable remains" and "family grave" cases.

The Petitioner wished to have her late husband's remains exhumed and reinterred in a churchyard nearer to where she now lived, her reason for the request being that she now found it difficult to visit her husband's grave. Applying the principles laid down by the Court of Arches in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the Chancellor refused to grant a faculty.

The petitioner sought a faculty to authorise the exhumation of the cremated remains of his father, who died in 1986, from New Mills churchyard and reinterment at Thornsett Cemetery in a plot which the petitioner had reserved. The petitioner's mother had recently died, but her cremated remains had not yet been interred. The petitioner stated that his mother had expressed a wish for her cremated remains to be buried at Thornsett. The petitioner therefore sought to respect his mother’s wishes and also unite his parents’ remains at Thornsett. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty. The cremated remains of both parents could be reunited at New Mills. The Chancellor did not consider that the wish to create a new family grave elsewhere justified the disturbance of an existing family grave.

Part of the cremated remains of the petitioner's late partner had been interred in the churchyard and part in a grave reserved in the cemetery by the petitioner. The petitioner applied for permission to exhume the ashes in the churchyard and reinter them in the grave in the cemetery. The petitioner's estranged daughters had been under the impression that all the ashes had been interred in the churchyard, in accordance with the deceased's wishes. One of the daughters, on discovering what had happened, petitioned to have the deceased's ashes exhumed from the cemetery and reinterred in the churchyard. The petitioner thereupon sought an amendment of his petition to preserve the status quo. The Chancellor decided that the status quo should be maintained, there being no sufficient justification for allowing either exhumation.