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

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Exhumations

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The Chancellor declined to grant a faculty to permit the exhumation of the petitioner's grandfather's cremated remains from the churchyard at Orford and reinterment in the grave of his wife in Warrington Cemetry. No sufficient exceptional circumstances had been shown: the petitioner's grandfather had died 18 months after his wife had been buried in the cemetery and the family (who said that they had mistakenly thought that his remains could not be buried in the same grave as his wife, who had been a Roman Catholic) had decided to have his remains buried in Orford churchyard; a long period of time (21 years) had elapsed since his death; and there was no support for the exhumation from the parish.

The petitioner wished to exhume his wife's remains from a grave (intended as a double grave for his wife and himself) in an area which was regularly waterlogged in winter, and to reinter the remains in another part of the same churchyard. The Chancellor decided that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty for exhumation and reinterment.

The parish priest applied for a restoration order following the interment in the churchyard without permission of a portion of the cremated remains of the novelist Tom Sharpe, together with various other items. The Chancellor granted a restoration order.

The petitioner was 18 when her brother committed suicide in 1988. At that time the Roman Catholic Church, of which the family were members, would not perform the burial, and so the deceased was buried in the churchyard of the Anglican church in Cherry Hinton. The petitioner was so aggrieved, emotionally and psychologically, by her brother's death that she had never been able to visit his grave, though her mother had visited it. Following her mother's death, the petitioner did not wish her mother to be buried in Cherry Hinton, but wished to have her buried in a cemetery in a triple-depth grave where the exhumed remains of her brother could be reinterred by a Roman Catholic priest, who was willing to perform the reinterment, and where the petitioner could be buried in due course. For the reasons stated in his judgment, the Chancellor was satisfied that there were special circumstances which constituted a good and proper reason for making an exception to the norm that Christian burial is final, and he therefore granted a faculty

The body of a woman was buried in the grave of her brother. The brother's widow and son were not consulted by the woman's sons or the funeral director or the parish priest. Upon discovering what had happened, the son applied for a faculty for exhumation, as he felt that he and his mother should have been consulted and he would have objected to the interment in his father's grave, had he known about it. The Chancellor took the view that the woman's sons had kept quiet about the existence of the son and widow, in order to have their mother buried in an existing grave in Cubley, where she did not have a legal right to be buried. However, the Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for exhumation. Although it was regrettable that the petitioner and his mother had not been consulted, the petitioner had "not established any basis sufficient in law based on any property right analogous to a reservation, or otherwise, to support his petition for exhumation".

The petitioners' daughter had died in 1980 and her ashes had been buried in the churchyard at Ham. The Petitioners had subsequently made their permanent home in Tasmania, but they had purchased the right to be buried in due time in a plot in Kingston General Cemetery. The petitioners wished, on the occasion of the first of them to die, to have their ashes interred in the reserved grave in the cemetery and to have their daughter's ashes exhumed from the churchyard and interred in the same grave. The Chancellor granted a faculty.

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.

The petitioners' mother had arranged in 2015 for the interment of her husband's ashes at St. Andrew Netherton, following a funeral at a nearby Roman Catholic Church. The petitioners' mother died in 2022, having previously expressed to the petitioners her wish for her cremated remains to be buried near to the graves of relatives in the cemetery at Burry Port in South Wales. She had also requested that her husband's ashes should be moved to be buried with her ashes at Burry Port. Taking all the various factors of the case together, the Chancellor determined to grant a faculty to allow the petitioners' father's ashes to be buried with the ashes of his wife next to other family members whose remains were buried in the cemetery.

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.