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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 (aged 98) and her late husband had lived in Belgium but had regularly travelled to Felixstowe over many years to visit the petitioner's mother. The petitioner's husband had died in 1992 and his ashes had been interred in Felixstowe Cemetery. The husband had no religious faith and the petitioner believed at the time of interment of his ashes that the ashes were being interred in an unconsecrated part of the cemetery, though it was eventually discovered that the whole of the cemetery was consecrated. The petitioner now wished to exhume her husband's ashes, and after her death to have his ashes and her own ashes scattered on the seashore in Felixstowe, in order to fulfill their long-held wish. In 1993, at the time when it was thought that the grave was unconsecrated, the petitioner had obtained a Home Office Licence to exhume her husband's ashes, but she had allowed the licence to lapse. The Chancellor, in the very special circumstances of this case, decided to treat this as an exceptional situation where he felt justified in granting a faculty.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her parents exhumed from the churchyard and reinterred in an unconsecrated burial ground at the Trappist Abbey of Mount St. Bernard, near Coalville in North Leicestershire, where the remains of several members of her husband's family were interred. The petitioner's original reason for seeking exhumation had been that the family home, Quenby Hall, next to the churchyard, had to be sold. But in a revised petition the petitioner asked that a faculty be granted for three reasons: (i) the interments at Hungerton had been a mistake; (ii) it was intended to put the remains in a family grave; and (ii) pastoral reasons. The Chancellor did not accept the arguments and dismissed the petition.

The petitioners' parents had intended to be buried in the same grave. The Petitioners' mother died in 2008 and was buried in the chosen grave. When the petitioners' father died in 2019, it was discovered a few days before the funeral that the grave of their mother had not been dug sufficiently deep to accommodate a second burial, and so, as a 'temporary measure', the father was buried in another part of the churchyard. The petitioners sought a faculty to authorise the exhumation of their mother's body, so that the grave could be dug deeper to accommodate the burial of their father's body. The Chancellor accepted that a mistake had been made in that the instructions to dig a double depth grave in 2008 had not been followed, and he granted a faculty for the double exhumation and reinterment, conditional upon it being possible to dig the mother's grave deeper, failing which the mother's remains could be exhumed and reinterred in her husband's grave.

A couple had planned to be buried in a double grave. The husband died in 2006 and was duly buried in the grave. His wife died in 2020, but a trial dig two weeks before the planned funeral date made it clear that the husband's coffin had not been buried sufficiently deep to allow the burial of a second coffin with enough earth above it. The undertakers therefore applied for a faculty to authorise the exhumation of the husband's coffin, to enable the grave to be dug deeper, in order to accommodate both coffins at sufficient depth. The Chancellor found that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the granting of a faculty, due to a mistake by the undertakers when the grave was originally dug in 2006.

The Chancellor granted a faculty for exhumation, finding that there were sufficient special circumstances to justify him doing so. The undertakers had failed to ensure that the grave digger had dug the grave sufficiently deep. In consequence of this failure, the coffin had become exposed to the surface at one end, where the ground had sunk. Additionally, the ground anchors supporting the headstone had pierced the top corner of the coffin and the coffin lid was broken or had rotted since burial. The Chancellor directed that the cost of the exhumation, including the faculty fees, should rest with the undertakers.

The petitioner wished to have the remains of her late father-in-law temporarily exhumed for DNA analysis. She claimed that in 2018 her husband had been wrongly convicted of two rapes in 1983 and 1988. The petitioner's sister-in-law did not believe that her brother had committed the offences of which he had been convicted, but that her father might well have been the perpetrator. The Chancellor considered that the petitioner had made out a case for the temporary disinterment of the remains and sampling of bone fragments for DNA analysis, to establish whether there was a possibility of a miscarriage of justice. He accordingly granted a faculty.

The petitioners wished to have their father's ashes (interred in 2004) exhumed and reinterred in the grave of their mother, whose body was buried in 2015. Considering the guidelines in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], the Chancellor determined to grant a faculty on the basis that (a) the reinterment would be into a family grave and would free up a cremation plot

The petitioner wished to exhume the cremated remains of her parents and re-inter them elsewhere in the same churchyard. The remains of both parents had been interred in a double casket in 2020. Unfortunately, due to an error in record keeping, the casket was interred in an unmarked plot containing the remains of another person. The mistake came to light when the petitioner subsequently applied for permission for a memorial stone. In view of the fact that an administrative error had been made, the Chancellor was satisfied that this was an exceptional circumstance which should override the presumption of permanence of burial and he therefore granted a faculty.

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty to authorise the temporary removal from the vault beneath the Sheldon Chapel of a skull, possibly that of William Shakespeare, to enable the carrying out of a detailed archaeological investigation to include laser scanning, radio carbon dating, and an anthropological assessment. The Chancellor found no scholarly or other evidence to support the story that the skull was that of William Shakespeare.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her father, who died in 2000, exhumed from Orford churchyard and reinterred? in the grave of her mother, whose ashes had been interred in Warrington Cemetery about 18 months before the death of the petitioner's father. The petitioner's mother had been a Roman Catholic and her father had been an Anglican. The petitioner claimed that, at the time of her father's death, the family mistakenly thought he had to be buried in an Anglican grave. She also stated that the family now wished to have the couple united in a family grave. The Chancellor decided that there were no exceptional circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty: the issue as to where the petitioner's father could be buried could have been decided shortly after his death; a long period had elapsed since the interment; and there was no support for the exhumation from the parish.