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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 wished to exhume the cremated remains of her father and reinter them in the grave of her mother in the same churchyard. The Chancellor decided that neither a desire to have both parents' remains together, nor the state of the location where the father's remains were interred, were enough to amount to special circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty for exhumation. Nor was there any element of mistake as to the places of interment. He therefore refused to grant a faculty.

The petitioner's father was a Latvian. After release from a German prisoner of war camp, he had not been allowed to return to Latvia (then occupied by Russia), and so he had settled in England. He died in 1995 and his cremated remains were interred in the Lower Stratton Cemetery (owned by the Parish Council) next to St. Margaret's Church. The petitioner's mother died in 2022, and part of her cremated remains had been buried in the same plot as her husband's. The petitioner wished to exhume the ashes of her father, so that part of his ashes could be interred with the retained portion of her mother's ashes in Latvia. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty: there was no evidence of the father's desire to have his remains interred in Latvia, or any evidence that he wished his remains to be buried with his wife's remains; there was no discussion at the time of his funeral about the possibility of moving his remains in the future; no enquiries had been made about the possibility of exhumation in the 27 years since he had died; there was no intention to create a family grave, but two separate graves; and no effort had been made to identify graves in Latvia.

The petitioners wished to exhume the cremated remains of their father and reinter them in a nearby cemetery. Their father had died in 1977, since when the church, church, church hall and vicarage had been demolished and the cremated remains had been moved to a new Garden of Rest, which the petitioners had been unhappy with, in view of the difficult conditions that visitors had to contend with there. The Chancellor was satisfied that there were exceptional circumstances in justifying the grant of a faculty, as an exception to the normal rule that burial should be permanent: "... the fact that the deceased's ashes were moved at the time of the demolition of the church and the associated work in relation to the Garden of Rest, whereby it can be said that his "final resting place" then lost a degree of permanence, which only the grant of this faculty can restore."

The petitioner's father had lived in Worcestershire for a short time before his death in 1989. The petitioner's late brother, a priest, had decided as a temporary measure to have his father's ashes interred at Fairfield, with a view to the ashes being reinterred in Great Amwell in Hertfordshire with the ashes of his mother after her death, which in fact occurred in 2011. The ashes of both parents were to be interred in a family grave at Great Amwell. Most of the family lived in or near Great Amwell, and the petitioner's father had lived in a cottage next to the churchyard. The Deputy Chancellor decided that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the exhumation and reinterment in the family grave.

The petitioner sought a faculty to authorise the exhumation of the cremated remains of his father from the churchyard and reinterment in the cremated remains section of a nearby cemetery. The reason given was that the deceased's wife had died recently and she had wanted her cremated remains to be interred in the cemetery. The petitioner wished to unite the cremated remains of his father with the cremated remains of his mother in the same grave. In the light of the guidance in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the Deputy Chancellor determined that there were no exceptional reasons to justify the grant of a faculty for the exhumation of the deceased’s remains.

In 1980, the petitioner's late father's ashes were interred in a cemetery in Loughborough. In 1985, the ashes were exhumed and reinterred in the churchyard at East Leake. The petitioner now wished to have his father's ashes re-exhumed and reinterred in another part of the churchyard, with the ashes of the petitioner's mother, who had recently died. The Chancellor determined that there were exceptional factors to justify the grant of a faculty for exhumation. The canopy of a cypress tree had grown over the grave, leaving only one metre clearance above the grave; the area around the grave was overgrown; and the grave was likely to be affected by the tree's roots.

The petitioner wished to have her late husband's cremated remains exhumed and reinterred in Scotland, on a property that the deceased had acquired in 1962. Four relatives and a friend of the deceased objected. They contended that the petitioner did not like them putting floral tributes and cards on the grave and had been observed removing flowers and cards, and that the petitioner's motive for moving the remains to Scotland was to put them where the objectors would find it difficult to put tributes on the deceased's grave. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for exhumation and reinterment and urged restraint on both sides, advising the objectors not to put cards on the grave and expressing the hope that the petitioner would not to remove flowers placed by the objectors.

The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty for exhumation. The petitioner wished to exhume the cremated remains of his daughter (who had died in 2007 aged 45) from Northolt churchyard and have the ashes scattered at Breakspear Crematorium. Applying the guidance given in the 2001 decision of the Court of Arches in Re Blagdon Cemetery, the Chancellor did not consider that the reasons given by the petitioner for exhumation - that the petitioner's daughter's grave was neglected, and that the family had moved to near the Breakspear Crematorium, where the petitioner and his wife intended to have their own ashes scattered in due course - were not sufficiently exceptional as to justify a departure from the general rule that permanence of burial in consecrated ground should be regarded as the norm. Also, if exhumation were allowed, the ashes would not be reinterred in consecrated ground.

The Chancellor granted a faculty to permit the opening of a grave and the opening of a casket, in order to permit the petitioners' mother's wedding ring to be placed with the ashes of the petitioners' parents, which had been interred six weeks previously.

The cremated remains of a member of the family concerned in this matter had recently been interred in her parents' grave. The interment had been arranged by certain members of the family, who did not discuss the location of the interment with other members of the family, who, as it turned out, objected to the last deceased being interred in her parents' grave, and they applied for a faculty for exhumation. The Chancellor ruled that the interment should not have taken place in the parents' grave without the agreement of all of the next of kin, and accordingly granted a faculty for exhumation and reinterment elsewhere.