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Alphabetical Index of all judgments on this web site as at 1 October 2022

Index by Dioceses of 2022 judgments on this web site as at 1 October 2022

Exhumations

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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.

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty to allow the remains of the petitioner's father to be exhumed and reinterred in another cemetery with the remains of the petitioner's mother: "A wish (however understandable) to reverse a decision made several years ago, which although regretted since was perfectly valid at the time it was made, is not sufficient, in my judgment, for these purposes.

The petitioner's maternal grandmother had been buried in grave space 951 in Shenfield Cemetery in 2006. The ashes of her grandfather had been buried in the same grave in 2009. The petitioner now sought permission for the temporary exhumation of her grandfather's ashes, to facilitate the burial of her mother's body in the same grave as her parents, with the ashes of the petitioner's grandfather then being reinterred in the grave. The Chancellor decided that, as the ashes had by mistake been buried at too shallow a depth as to allow the further burial, this was an appropriate case in which to grant a faculty. As a further reason for granting the faculty, the Chancellor said: "I also consider that the alternative test, formerly laid down and applied in Re Christ Church, Alsager [1999] Fam 142, of the existence of a good and proper reason for exhumation which most right-thinking members of the Anglican church would regard as acceptable, is also satisfied."

The petitioners' father's ashes had been interred in the cemetery in 2004 in a plot reserved for the ashes of him and his wife. Some years later, the petitioners' mother had decided that she did not wish her ashes to be buried with those of her husband, but wanted them scattered where she used to walk her dog. She had also expressed a wish that here husband's ashes be exhumed and scattered in the same place. The petitioners' mother died in 2023. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty to allow the petitioners' father's ashes to be exhumed and scattered. There was no legal basis on which to justify exhumation. There had been no mistake as to the place of burial, but simply a change of mind after a long period of time, which was not a proper reason for allowing an exception to the general rule that burial should be regarded as final.

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

The petitioner's mother's ashes had been interred in the South London Cemetery in 1993. The intention of the family at that time had been that the interment would be temporary, until the petitioner's father died, when the remains of both parents would be buried together. They had not been informed that the interment had been into consecrated ground, and that a faculty would be needed to authorise the removal of the petitioner's mother's remains at a later date. Before he died, the petitioner's father expressed a wish to be buried, rather than cremated. The petitioner wished to have her mother's ashes exhumed and interred with her father's body in Epsom Cemetery. The Chancellor decided that a mistake had been made and that he should authorise the exhumation and reinterment as requested. He did not insist that the ashes should be reinterred in consecrated ground.

In 1999 the petitioner reserved a grave in the cemetery next to the grave of his late sister. He was given a deed recording the reservation. In 2016 he discovered that someone had been buried in the grave he had reserved. He complained to the burial authority, who said the register had been amended to record a different grave number. The Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioner had not agreed to a change of reserved grave. The petitioner, first directly and then through solicitors, failed to persuade the burial authority to arrange an exhumation and reinterment in another grave. He therefore applied for a faculty. Whilst accepting that there had been an administrative mistake by the burial authority, the Chancellor decided not to grant a faculty, because of "the possibility of real consequences" for the family of the person buried in the grave and the alternative possibilities for the petitioner to be buried in another nearby grave, or in the same grave as his sister, or "the prospect of exhuming [his sister's] remains so that they could be reburied in a plot with space to the side".

The petitioner, of Polish origin, wished to exhume her mother's ashes from the cemetery in Spalding and have them taken to Poland and interred in the grave of her father in a Polish cemetery. The petitioner was planning to return to Poland permanently and had no relatives left in England. All her late relatives' graves were in Poland. The Chancellor decided that special circumstances existed for exhumation to be permitted and he therefore granted a faculty.

Before her father's death in 2015, the petitioner had found the task of looking after her parents too great. They both needed constant care. Her father was frail and her mother suffered from dementia. The couple, who had been married for 70 years, were both moved to a care home. When her father died shortly afterwards, the petitioner, in distress and haste, had his ashes interred in plot 734 in the cemetery, which was a family grave of his wife's relatives. Afterwards, the petitioner felt she had made the wrong decision and she purchased plot 1425 close by, with a view to it becoming a family grave for the remains of both of her parents when her mother died. Her mother died in 2020, but her ashes had not yet been interred in plot 1425. There was in fact no further room in plot 734 for her ashes to be interred there. The Chancellor decided that the circumstances were such as to justify the grant of a faculty to allow the exhumation of the petitioner's father's ashes and their reinterment in plot 1425 with his wife's ashes.