Permanence of Christian burial revisited – II

Is guidance on the permanence of Christian burial in need of review?

Following a post summarizing the Church of England’s approach to the permanence of Christian burial and the application of Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299, we identified some instances in which other issues relating to exhumation have been raised. In Part I we examined these in relation to: the application of Articles 8 & 9 ECHR; the development of churchyards to permit the reuse of graves; and family graves. In this second part we look at: the storage and scattering of cremation ashes; cases in which there is an objection to exhumation; and where a petitioner has sought exhumation and re-interment at a more convenient location on account of medical reasons.   Continue reading

New guidance on abortion law in Northern Ireland

As we noted in Sunday’s round-up, on Good Friday the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety published new Guidance for Health and Social Care Professionals on Termination of Pregnancy in Northern Ireland. It makes it clear at the outset that the guidance “cannot, and does not, make any change to the law of Northern Ireland. In the event of any conflict between this guidance and the law, the latter will always prevail” [1.9: emphasis in original].

The guidance

Briefly, the guidance points out that termination of pregnancy is governed by ss 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and s 25 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 and summarises the current law as follows: Continue reading

Law and Religion UK – a recent milestone

The forthcoming 2016 Law and Religion Scholars Network (LARSN) Conference on 5 and 6 May will include a plenary session, “Meet the authors and bloggers”, in which the editors of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal, Law & Justice and the Oxford Journal of Law & Religion – along with us – will discuss what we are looking for in terms of contributions (articles, comments and guest blogs), the focus of the journal / blog and how we see the study of Law and Religion developing. Coincidentally, on Easter Sunday we passed the 500,000 page-view milestone; so what follows is a prequel to our presentation, looking at the problems and pitfalls of communicating with up to a thousand potential readers through a couple of clicks of the mouse. Continue reading

Law and religion round-up – 27th March

A week totally overshadowed by the atrocities in Brussels…


Abortion guidelines in Nothern Ireland

The BBC reports that the Northern Ireland Executive has published new abortion guidelines for the medical profession.

It’s a long story. As we have noted on numerous occasions, Northern Ireland’s abortion law is much more restrictive that the law in Great Britain: it is only permitted if the woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health. Most recently, as a sequel to his judgment in Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Re Judicial Review [2015] NIQB 96, Horner J concluded that the current law breached Article 8 ECHR (private and family life) because it did not provide adequate protection for the human rights of pregnant women where there was a serious malformation of the foetus or a fatal foetal abnormality or where the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. He therefore made a declaration of incompatibility under the Human Rights Act 1998.

The end of ecclesiastical exemption in Northern Ireland?

And while we’re in Northern Ireland… The Province currently has over 900 listed churches and one listed synagogue; and those in active use as places of worship are exempt from listed building consent for alterations. On Monday, Environment Minister Mark Durkan launched a consultation on a proposal to remove the ecclesiastical exemption. He notes that ecclesiastical exemption is common across the UK but points out that the parallel systems of control for named denominations used elsewhere were never introduced in Northern Ireland. Continue reading

Extradition, fear of persecution and the ECHR: FG v Sweden


FG is an Iranian who arrived in Sweden in November 2009 claiming asylum. In his initial asylum application, he submitted that he had been politically active against the Iranian regime. He also mentioned that he had converted to Christianity after coming to Sweden but said that he did not wish to rely on it as a ground for asylum because he considered it a personal matter. He was refused asylum on political grounds but requested a stay of deportation, relying on his conversion to Christianity as a new fact to be taken into consideration. His request was refused; however, he took the matter to the ECtHR and his expulsion was stayed by an interim ruling in October 2011 under Rule 39 of the ECtHR Rules of Court that he should not be expelled to Iran while the Court was considering his case. In the Chamber judgment of 16 January 2014, the Court rejected his application by four votes to three: he appealed to the Grand Chamber. Continue reading

Shakespeare’s missing skull – the mystery deepens

… but scientific analysis proved the Beoley churchwarden to be correct

April 23rd marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and in addition to the many commemorative events seeking to capitalize on the occasion, there has been renewed interest in his burial in the church of Holy Trinity, Stratford upon Avon. In our post Shakespeare’s Skull – Church court rejects Gothic fiction we considered the case of Re St Leonard Beoley [2015] Worcester Const Ct  relating to a church about 15 miles from Stratford; this concerned the unsuccessful petition for the exhumation a skull for examination,  which some accounts had suggested was that of the bard. The story has now moved on, Shakespeare’s grave in Holy Trinity has been examined using Ground-Penetrating Radar, (GPR), and the “Beoley skull” has been subject to a laser scan and forensic examination. Whilst some questions have been answered other intriguing ones remain. Continue reading

Permanence of Christian burial revisited – I

Is guidance on the permanence of Christian burial in need of review? Part I: Articles 8 & 9 ECHR, churchyard development and family graves

Ardington 02In an earlier post we summarized the Church of England’s approach to the permanence of Christian burial and the application of Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299. We noted that this principle is rigorously upheld in the consistory courts; an examination of the judgments on which we have reported since 2014 [1] indicates that most applications for exhumation have been refused. Nevertheless, there are instances in which the application of Re Blagdon Cemetery raises other issues, and this post examines those relating to: the application of Articles 8 & 9 ECHR; the development of churchyards to permit the reuse of graves;  and, the concept of family graves. A later post will consider: the storage and scattering of cremation ashes; the refusal of petitions relating to portable remains, and circumstances in which there is an objection to exhumation 

The Court of Arches judgment Re Blagdon Cemetery was “greatly assisted by a paper on the ‘Theology of Burial’ from the Right Reverend Christopher Hill”, who was then Bishop of Stafford. An extended form of this paper has provided chancellors with an further source of reference [2]; also pertinent are the pre-Blagdon papers by Rupert Bursell in 1998, “Digging up Exhumation[3], and by  Philip Petchey, “Exhumation Reconsidered” in 2001 [4]. Continue reading