Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Exhumations

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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 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.

Faculty refused for exhumation of cremated remains from a family grave in one part of the churchyard to a double plot for cremated remains in another part of the same 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 Chancellor granted a faculty to authorise the exhumation of the cremated remains of the petitioner's father, which, due to an administrative error on the part of the town council, had been interred in the grave adjacent to the grave of the petitioner's mother, instead of in the petitioner's mother's grave.

Two of the petitioners applied for a faculty for exhumation, in order to establish by DNA testing whether the person it was proposed to be exhumed was their father. The objectors were the brother and sister of the deceased. An Irish Court was holding an award made under the Residential Institutions Redress Act 2002, the deceased having been abused in a residential institution when he was young. Establishing whether the two petitioners were the children of the deceased would determine whether they were entitled to the award. The Chancellor determined that this was an exceptional case where it was appropriate to grant a faculty.

The remains of a child who died at three days old were buried in Loughborough Cemetery. The family subsequently moved to Australia and sought a faculty to allow the exhumation of the baby's remains, so that they might be cremated and placed in a niche in a cemetery in Australia where the parents had reserved niches for their own remains. Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] considered. The Chancellor was unable to find sufficient reason to justify an exception to the general principle of permanence in respect of Christian burial. Petition dismissed.