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Exhumations

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A faculty was sought to permit the exhumation of the remains of a husband, in order that they might be interred with the remains of his wife in another grave in the same cemetery. His wife had expressed a wish in her will to be buried with her husband, but her husband's remains had been interred in a family grave where there had previously been three interments and there was no more room for further interments. The Chancellor determined that the circumstances justified an exception to the general rule against exhumation, so as to create a family grave in which the remains of both husband and wife could be buried together.

The petitioners wished to exhume their father's cremated remains and to scatter the ashes with the ashes of the petitioner's mother (recently deceased) at a favourite spot in the Lake District. The petitioners' father had expressed a wish to have his ashes scattered in the Lake District, but the petitioners had agreed with their mother at the time of her husband's funeral to bury the ashes in the Cemetery. Now that their mother had died, the petitioner's wished to comply with their father's wishes, which their mother had agreed to before she died. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty. In accordance with the principles laid down by the Court of Arches in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], remains should only be exhumed in exceptional circumstances. The petitioners could not argue that there had been a mistake in dealing with their father's ashes as they and their mother had agreed to interment in the Cemetery. A change of mind as to a place of burial did not amount to an exceptional circumstance. The proposal to scatter the ashes was an additional reason for refusing a faculty.

It had been the wish of George Nicholson to be buried in the grave of his father, who had died in 1945 and was buried in the War Graves section of Benton Cemetery. When George Nicholson died in 2018, his ashes were placed in the grave marked by his father's memorial. In 2019, when George Nicholson's sister died, and it was proposed to inter her ashes in her father's grave, it was discovered that in 2006 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission had removed the memorial of George Nicholson's father and also the adjacent memorial for restoration work and the two memorials had been replaced the wrong way round, so that George Nicholson's ashes had been placed in the grave next to his father's. The burial authority applied for a faculty to rectify the mistake by the exhumation of George Nicholson's ashes from the neighbouring grave, so that they could be interred in his father's grave. The Deputy Chancellor determined that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty for exhumation and reinterment.

Faculty refused for the exhumation from a cemetery of the cremated remains of a child buried in 1960, and reinterment in the churchyard of a parish to which the parents had moved. The Chancellor took into account the time since the interment, and also did not accept the Petitioner's argument that the deterioration in the care of the cemetery justified him in making an exception to the presumption against exhumation.

The petitioner wished to have the cremated remains of her daughter, who had died in in a tragic accident in 1998, exhumed from a grave in Parkside Road Cemetery in Kendal and reinteered with the remains of the petitioner's recently deceased father in another grave in the same cemetery. For a number of reasons, including the fact that the father's remains could be interred in the same grave as the daughter, the Chancellor declined to grant the faculty sought, because he did not accept that any exception was warranted by the facts of this case to the presumption of the permanence of Christian burial.

The petitioner wished to exhume the remains of her baby daughter (who died in 1948) and of her husband (who died in 1989) from Bingham Cemetery, a few miles from her home in the nearby village of Gamston. At the time of the interments, Bingham was the place where people from Gamston were normally interred. The petitioner and her daughter and son-in-law had purchased two plots in Wilford Hill Cemetery, about one mile away from Gamston.  The intention was that the petitioner’s daughter and son-in-law should in due course be buried in one of the plots at Wilford Hill and that the petitioner’s husband’s and infant daughter’s remains should be transferred to the other grave, in which the petitioner would eventually be buried. The Chancellor considered that there were no exceptional circumstances to justify the exhumations, and he accordingly refused to grant a faculty. This was not a case of a desire for remains to be moved to a family grave, but to exhume from a family grave, in which it was possible for the petitioner’s remains to be interred in due course.

The petitioner wished to have her husband's body exhumed from the cemetery in Sunderland, in order to have the body cremated and the ashes then taken to a parish in Northamptonshire to which the petitioner proposed to move. The Chancellor, applying the guidelines set out by the Court of Arches decision in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, considered that there was insufficient reason to justify the grant of a faculty for exhumation.

This was an appeal from a decision of the Chancellor of the Diocese of Bath & Wells, who refused to grant a faculty for the exhumation of the remains of Steven Whittle from Blagdon Cemetery, Somerset, with a view to their re-interment in Stowmarket Cemetery, Suffolk. The deceased's parents had difficulty in travelling from Suffolk to Somerset to visit their son's grave, and wished for his remains to be moved near to their permanent home and placed in a family grave. The judgment discusses the theology of burial and sets out various factors which should be considered before a decision is made as to whether an exception should be allowed from the general presumption of permanence arising from the initial act of interment in consecrated ground. The Court directed that a faculty should be granted by the Consistory Court. The Court made its decision on a number of grounds, one being that the remains were to be reinterred in a family grave in Stowmarket.

The son of the petitioner, who was of the Sikh faith, was stillborn 40 years ago. Owing to the petitioner's atate of health and shock at the time, the funeral arrangements were left to other members of the family, and the body of the stillborn was buried in a coffin in a consecrated part of the cemetery by a Sikh priest, because there was no area in the cemetery set aside for burials of those of the Sikh faith. Had the petitioner known at the time that Cremation was an option, she would have had her stillborn son cremated and his ashes taken to India for scattering on an Indian river in accordance with the Sikh her faith. The Chancellor acepted that the petitioner had been haunted all her life by the lack of choice she had had in the way that her stillborn son's funeral was dealt with and her own wishes had not been fulfullied, so that, as she faced her own mortality, she was now troubled by a desire to have her son's death commemorated in the way she would have wished, in order to give her peace in her remaining years. The Chancellor decided that ther were exceptional circumstances to justify granting a faculty, subject to the conditions listed in the judgment.

The petitioners wished to have the cremated remains of their father exhumed from Bourne Abbey and reinterred in a cemetery in Harlow, where their mother's cremated remains had been interred following her recent death. Upon consideration of the guidelines laid down in the Court of Arches decision in Re Blagdon Cemetery 2002 Fam 299, the Chancellor determined that this was a case where an exception could be made to the presumption that burial should be treated as final, as the remains of the petitioners' father would be reinterred in a family grave.