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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 Chancellor granted a faculty for the exhumation of the mortal remains of the baby son of one of the petitioners and reinterment in Ireland. The baby had lived less than three months. The family had lived in Ireland for 20 years and had a double grave plot reserved in their local churchyard, which could accommodate six burials. The father was suffering from terminal cancer and wished to be buried with his child in the family plot. For this and other reasons, the Chancellor found that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty.

The petitioner's mother died in a motor accident in 2000. The petitioner's father had been in such a state of shock that he had left it to a family friend to arrange the funeral. Notwithstanding that the father and his three daughters were all atheists, the family friend arranged for burial in the consecrated churchyard at Charlwood. Each member of the family had never been happy with this and had only recently found it possible to discuss the matter together. They now wished the mother's body to be exhumed and cremated, and the ashes scattered elsewhere. The Deputy Chancellor considered the guiding principles laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299 and concluded that this was an exceptional case where exhumation should be allowed: " ... I am persuaded that there was a fundamental mistake of intention in this case ... For a family of conscientious atheists, Christian burial was not the right choice. The daughters have tried very hard to honour and make sense of their mother’s memory through the medium of her grave, but they reached a point whereby the thing which should provide some solace was doing the opposite."

Interments of two family members had taken place in the same grave in 2012 and 2013. After the second interment there had been only a foot of earth over the second coffin, and in the course of time the second coffin had become exposed. An application was made for a faculty to authorise the exhumation of both coffins from the family grave and for re-interment of both coffins in the same grave in another part of the churchyard. The Chancellor determined that there were special circumstances to justify him permitting both coffins to be exhumed (even though the first coffin could have been left in situ with a sufficient covering of earth) and for them both to be re-interred in a new family grave.

The cremated remains of a child who died within hours of a premature birth in the 1980s had been interred in the churchyard. The petitioners (the father of the child and his three daughters) wished to have the remains exhumed with a view to them being reinterred in the father's garden. The father's wife had expressed a wish before her death to be buried in the garden with the remains of her deceased child. The Chancellor could find no justification for allowing the exhumation and reinterment of the child's remains as proposed, but he granted a faculty authorising exhumation, provided that permission could be obtained for the remains of the child and both parents to be interred in the churchyard of the church where the mother's funeral had been conducted or in some other consecrated ground.

The Chancellor determined that exceptional circumstances existed to justify the proposed exhumation of the cremated remains of a young man from the churchyard in Kenilworth for reinterment in the same grave as his late parents (or in the next grave) in a churchyard in Norfolk, the Chancellor noting similarities between the circumstamces in this case and those in the case of Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299.

A mother wished to have her son's body exhumed from the churchyard of St. Patrick Earlswood and reinterred in a churchyard in Ireland, where she now lived. Here reason for the request was that if her son;s body remained in England, she would have difficulty in visiting and tending the grave regularly. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty. The petitioner had not shown any exceptional circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty.

The petitioner, on behalf of herself and her six siblings, sought a faculty to authorise the exhumation of her brother's cremated remains from their parents' grave and reinterment in a nearby new grave. The deceased's daughter, believing it had been her father's wish to be interred with his parents, had arranged the interment without consulting the deceased's siblings, who only learned about the interment after it had taken place. It caused them great distress that there had been another interment in their parents' grave. The Chancellor was satisfied that there were exceptional circumstances to justify exhumation, as the grave had "become a focus of disquiet and grievance amongst the family members with a real degree of distress to some."

The petitioner wished to exhume the cremated remains of his father and reinter them in the same churchyard in the grave of his mother, who died after his father. Shortly before he died, the petitioner's father had told the petitioner that he wanted to be cremated. The petitioner's mother had expressed regret after her husband's death that she had been unable to persuade her husband to be buried, so that he could be buried in the same grave as herself. But the retired priest who carried out the interment of her husband's ashes had assured the mother that, when she was buried, it would be possible to put her husband's cremated remains into her grave. The petitioner was also reassured by either the priest or the funeral director, that there would be no problem. The Chancellor determined that there had been an innocent mistake on the part of the retired priest, and further that there was a misunderstanding by all the family, amounting to a mistake, as to what they could or could not do. He therefore decided that there were special circumstances in this case to justify allowing the exhumation and reinterment.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of his late wife, who died in 2013, exhumed from the churchyard at Barnby Dun, in South Yorkshire, and re-interred in Littlehampton Cemetery, in West Sussex. The petitioner and his two sons lived in West Sussex, and considered it to have been a mistake for the deceased's remains to have been buried in Barnby Dun, close to the remains of her parents. Also, one of the petitioner's sons, who was very close to his mother, suffered from severe physical disabilities, and was unable to visit his mother's grave 250 miles away without support. Following the test for exceptionality suggested by the Chancery Court of York in Re Christ Church Alsager [1998] 3 WLR 1394 -  "Is there a good and proper reason for exhumation, that reason being likely to be regarded as acceptable by right thinking members of the Church at large?" - the Chancellor decided that this  was an exceptional case which justified the grant of a faculty for exhumation.

The petitioner wished to remove her father's cremated remains from Wymering's separate churchyard extension to a family plot in Waterlooville Cemetery, where the petitioners' mother wished to have her remains interred in due course. Other reasons given for the proposal were that the family had expected the ashes to be buried in the area set aside for cremated remains in the churchyard, but at the funeral they did not feel able to object to the grave having been dug in the extension. Also, the grave was in a position under what was now a large overgrowing tree. Whilst the location and condition of the plot would not in themselves be grounds to justify exhumation, the Chancellor did not think it would be a satisfactory solution to suggest that the petitioner's mother's ashes should be buried with her husband's ashes in the existing plot, or that the petitioner's mother's ashes should be buried separate from her husband's, in view of the distress which that would cause to the family. He therefore granted a faculty for the exhumation and reinterment as requested.