Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Exhumations

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The petitioners, father and daughter, applied for a faculty to exhume the remains of the father's late wife's cremated remains from plot a cremated remains plot in the cemetery, for reinterment in a full grave plot in the same cemetery, which had already been purchased by the father and two of his daughters. The father had realised after the interment that he would not be able to be buried with his wife's remains, as he was a Roman Catholic and he believed that the Roman Catholic Church required its members to have full body burial. The Chancellor decided to grant a faculty. The determing factors were: (1) there had not been a long period between the interment and the husband's realisation of the frustration of his desire to be buried with his wife; (2) the husband had had to make a quick decision about a plot for his wife at a traumatic time when he was unable clearly to think through the consequences; and (3) the remains of his wife would be reinterred in a family grave, thus releasing a cremation plot.

The Petitioner applied for leave to appeal against the decision of the Chancellor earlier in the year not to allow exhumation. Application dismissed.

 

The petitioner, aged 88 years, wished to have the remains of his late wife exhumed from Southern Cemetery, Manchester, and reinterred in Mill Lane Cemetery, near Cheadle, about six miles away, closer to where the petitioner now lived, as he was finding it increasingly difficult to visit her grave. The Chancellor found no exceptional reasons which would justify him in authorising the exhumation and reinterment.

Faculty refused for exhumation from the cemetery at Battle and reinterment in the cemetery at Petworth, near the petitioner's home, the Chancellor finding no special reason to allow exhumation within the principles laid down by the Court of Arches in Re Blagdon.

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 petitioner applied for a faculty for the exhumation of the remains of her mother, interred in Mortlake Cemetery in 1978, and for reinterment in a cemetery in the USA, near to where the petitioner lived. The Petitioner was the deceased's only surviving child and had lived in the USA since 1953. The Petitioner's children and their families all lived near to her  and an area in the cemetery near to her home had been reserved for the burial of members of her family, where one of her daughters was already buried. After considering the principles laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, the Deputy Chancellor determined that there were exceptional circumstances allowing her to grant a faculty for exhumation, so that all the members of the family could be buried together in the same cemetery.

In January 1995 the cremated remains of Harold Bristeir were interred in plot 15000 in the cemetery. It was the intention at the time that when his wife Joan Bristier died, her remains would be interred in the same plot. In March 1995, Mrs. Bristeir's brothers, Michael and Roland Durber reserved rights of burial in the adjacent plot 14999. When Roland died in 2011, his remains were interred in plot 15000, owing to a mistake by the burial authority. This mistake came to light in 2017, when Mrs. Bristeir died, and the error was only discovered on the day before her funeral. In the circumstances, Mrs. Bristeir's daughter reluctantly agreed for her mother's ashes going in plot 14999. However, she later regretted that decision in haste and applied for the exhumation of her mother's ashes and Roland's ashes and their reinterment in the correct plots. The Chancellor found that, owing to the mistake by the burial authority, he was justified in allowing the two exhumations and reinterments.

Faculty granted for exhumation. The judgment contains a lengthy discussion of what can amount to "exceptional circumstances".

The Petitioner wished to exhume the cremated remains of her late mother from one plot in the consecrated area of the cemetery and reinter them in another consecrated plot in the same cemetery. The Petitioner's father had died in 2006 and had been buried in the cemetery. In 2007 the Petitioner purchased a plot for her mother near to her father's plot, and when her mother died in 2010 the Petitioner arranged for her mother's remains to be buried in the separate plot which she had purchased, even though her mother had expressed a wish, shortly before she died, to be buried with her husband. The Petitioner subsequently felt guilty at not having carried out her mother's wishes and now wished to have her mother's remains interred with her father's.The Deputy Chancellor decided that there were no special circumstances within the guidelines laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] to justify him in granting a faculty.