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Alphabetical Index of all judgments on this web site as at 20 January 2022

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Exhumations

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The petitioner sought permission to exhume the remains of her child (who had died, aged five, from a brain tumour), in order to have the remains cremated. She then wished to keep the cremated remains at home. The funeral had involved a humanist ceremony, but the remains had been buried in a consecrated part of the cemetery. The child's parents were unaware that the grave was in consecrated ground. The petitioner had subsequently regretted the interment and had found the situation difficult to come to terms with. The Chancellor found that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty. The judgment contains a discussion as to whether Articles 8 and 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights applied to this case.

After considering the principles in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the Chancellor found special reasons why he should permit the exhumation of the remains of a young person of Chinese descent and reinterment in another section of the cemetery where all other members of her family and members of the local Chinese community were buried or had reserved graves.

The petitioner's father's cremated remains were interred in Epperstone churchyard in Nottinghamshire in 2004. After he died, the petitioner moved to Bradford-on-Avon. In 2013 the petitioner's mother moved to a nursing home in Bradford-on-Avon and she died in 2018. The petitioner wished to have her father's ashes exhumed from Epperstone churchyard and interred with her mother's ashes in Bradford-on-Avon, because it would be inconvenient for the petitioner to travel regularly between Bradford-on-Avon and Nottinghamshire to visit her father's grave. The Chancellor refused to grant a faculty, as inconvenience did not amount to an exceptional reason for departing from the general principle that Christian burial is to be seen as permanent.

The Petitioner applied for a faculty to exhume her father's ashes and reinter them in a different part of the churchyard. The undertaker's gravedigger had dug the existing grave too close to the footpath for the proposed memorial, so that there would have been a danger of the grave and memorial being trodden on by members of the public. This was causing distress to the petitioner's mother. The Chancellor authorised the exhumation and reinterment.

The petitioner wished to exhume from the churchyard the cremated remains of his father and to have the remains reinterred in a cemetery with the remains of his mother, who had subsequently died. Applying the principles in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the Chancellor found no special circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty for exhumation.

Iris Dean ("the Deceased"), before her death in 2010, expressed a wish to have her ashes interred in grave A12 in Blackley Cemetery, where her parents, brother and sister were interred. When she died, her husband, who did not wish to be buried in the same grave as his in-laws, purchased grave A136, and had the Deceased ashes interred in it, with a view to his own ashes being interred there in due time. Before he died in 2020, the deceased decided that he did not wish to be cremated, but to be buried with his parents in a churchyard at Droylsden, where his ashes were in fact subsequently interred. The Deceased's daughter now applied for a faculty to exhume her mother's ashes from grave A136 and reinter them in the family grave, A12. The Chancellor determined to treat this as a case of mistake in not burying the Deceased in accordance with her wishes and that it would be unconscionable not to allow the Deceased's ashes to be buried in her chosen final resting place, the family grave.

Faculty granted for exhumation, to allow the cremated remains of the deceased to be placed with the remains of his wife in a family grave in a different churchyard.

The Chancellor found that there were exceptional circumstances to justify him granting a faculty for the exhumation of the cremated remains of the petitioner's father from Kenilworth Cemetery and reinterment with the cremated remains of the petitioner's mother in a grave in the churchyard of St. Nicholas Kenilworth, which already contained the remains of the petitioner's aunt. At the time of the father's death the petitioner had been told mistakenly that burial in the churchyard was not possible, whilst in fact it was possible to inter into an existing grave which would become a family grave.

The petitioner's father had died in 2005 and his cremated remains had been interred in the cemetery. His widow, during her lifetime, had expressed a wish to have her cremated remains buried in a more accessible part of the cemetery and for her husband's cremated remains to be exhumed and reinterred in the same grave as her own remains. The widow died in 2017. The petitioner applied for a faculty for exhumation and reinterment of her father's ashes, even though it would be possible to inter the ashes of her mother in the plot where her father's ashes were interred. The Chancellor determined that there were no special circumstances, within the guidelines set out in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam. 299, to justify granting a faculty for exhumation.

The petitioner's late father, a Muslim, had been buried in a grave in part of the cemetery consecrated for burials according to the rites of the Church of England. It was unclear whether this had been pointed out to the family at the time of death (as none of the cemetery staff were in post when the father was buried), but probably not. Also, the burial had been limited to single depth, because of the ground conditions. The petitioner's mother, who had recently died, had been buried in an unconsecrated part of the cemetery. The petitioner stated that it had been the wish of his parents to be buried together. It had not been possible to bury the petitioner's mother in the same grave as her husband (even disregarding the fact that the grave was consecrated. The Chancellor decided that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty to enable exhumation of the petitioner's father's remains, for reinterment in the unconsecrated grave where his mother was buried.