Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Exhumations

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Following Re Blagdon Cemetery, Faculty for exhumation refused, as no exceptional circumstances.

Faculty granted for the exhumation of the cremated remains of three family members from inside a church which had been closed for public worship, and reinterment in a family grave in a local cemetery.

Faculty granted for exhumation. Principles in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] considered and special circumstances found.

The petitioner's mother's ashes had been interred in the South London Cemetery in 1993. The intention of the family at that time had been that the interment would be temporary, until the petitioner's father died, when the remains of both parents would be buried together. They had not been informed that the interment had been into consecrated ground, and that a faculty would be needed to authorise the removal of the petitioner's mother's remains at a later date. Before he died, the petitioner's father expressed a wish to be buried, rather than cremated. The petitioner wished to have her mother's ashes exhumed and interred with her father's body in Epsom Cemetery. The Chancellor decided that a mistake had been made and that he should authorise the exhumation and reinterment as requested. He did not insist that the ashes should be reinterred in consecrated ground.

In 1999 the petitioner reserved a grave in the cemetery next to the grave of his late sister. He was given a deed recording the reservation. In 2016 he discovered that someone had been buried in the grave he had reserved. He complained to the burial authority, who said the register had been amended to record a different grave number. The Chancellor was satisfied that the petitioner had not agreed to a change of reserved grave. The petitioner, first directly and then through solicitors, failed to persuade the burial authority to arrange an exhumation and reinterment in another grave. He therefore applied for a faculty. Whilst accepting that there had been an administrative mistake by the burial authority, the Chancellor decided not to grant a faculty, because of "the possibility of real consequences" for the family of the person buried in the grave and the alternative possibilities for the petitioner to be buried in another nearby grave, or in the same grave as his sister, or "the prospect of exhuming [his sister's] remains so that they could be reburied in a plot with space to the side".

Faculty refused for exhumation of a husband's remains interred in one cemetery in Manchester in 1993, in order that they might be reinterred in the same grave as his wife's remains, which were interred in another cemetery in Manchester in 2011. The Chancellor concluded that insufficient special reasons had been shown to justify the grant of a faculty.

The petitioner wished to exhume his wife's remains from a grave (intended as a double grave for his wife and himself) in an area which was regularly waterlogged in winter, and to re-inter the remains in another part of the same churchyard. The Chancellor decided that there were exceptional circumstances to justify the grant of a faculty for exhumation and re-interment.

The parish priest applied for a restoration order following the interment in the churchyard without permission of a portion of the cremated remains of the novelist Tom Sharpe, together with various other items. The Chancellor granted a restoration order.

Faculty granted for exhumation of cremated remains interred by mistake in a grave already reserved by Faculty. Order for costs against the incumbent, whose error in interring the remains in a reserved grave had given rise to the proceedings.