Ecclesiastical Law Association

Ecclesiastical Law Association

Judgments: Exhumations

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Two petitions and two pending petitions relating to the exhumation of cremated remains, currently stored in a municipal cemetery on a temporary basis in non-biodegradable urns beneath plaques, on the expiration of the initial licences.  The chancellor considered the need for a faculty in such a situation, and indicated that he would be minded to grant a faculty where it could be shown that the original interment was never intended to be permanent. Faculties would also be granted in two cases on the basis of reinterment in a family grave elsewhere.

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 of bodies and three interments of cremated remains, and there was no room left to inter the remains of his wife. The sons were agreeable to their parents' remains being interred together in a new grave and wished in due course to be buried in the same family grave. The Chancellor granted a faculty, being satisfied that the circumstances constituted an exception to the normal rule that remains are not to be disturbed.

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.

Successful appeal against refusal of Faculty for exhumation.

Faculty refused for exhumation from family grave and reinterment in grave where the deceased's spouse, the Petitioner, intended to be interred in due course.

Faculty granted for exhumation and reinterment in family grave in a different parish.

Faculty granted for exhumation of a body from one part of the cemetery, where it had been interred contrary to the wishes of the deceased's wife, and reinterment near other family graves in the cemetery. The Chancellor found that there had been "an error in administration", which justified him in granting a faculty.

The Petitioner and his wife, having moved from Castle Bytham to Grantham, wished to exhume the cremated remains of their late son and re-inter them in Grantham Cemetery. The grounds for making the application were: (1) the petitioner and his wife, due to their age and frailty, were unable to visit the grave at Castle Bytham; and (2) the Petitioner and his wife had purchased a grave at Grantham Cemetery with the intention that their son's remains should be placed their and their own cremated remains would be placed in the same grave in due course. The Chancellor stated that, following the principles laid down in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002], he could not grant a faculty on the first ground, but he granted a faculty on the second ground, because a family grave had been established.

Faculty refused for the exhumation from the local cemetery of the cremated remains of the petitioner’s late husband, for re-interment in the same grave as the petitioner’s late son in the St. Mary’s churchyard, Bognor Regis. The Chancellor could find no special reason or circumstance to justify him overriding the normal presumption that burial should be final.