Ecclesiastical court judgments 2016

Index to ecclesiastical court judgments reviewed during 2016, and links to reviews in 2014 and 2015

The judgments reviewed in L&RUK during 2016 have been grouped under the following headings. Continue reading

Ecclesiastical judgments – November


In addition to the eleven consistory court cases reviewed here, the Bishop’s Disciplinary Tribunal for the Diocese of Sodor and Man handed down a judgment in relation to the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003 as it has effect in the Isle of Man. Following his 2016 Visitation, the Bishop of Chichester handed over his Charge to the Dean, Chapter and College of Canons, which is covered in our post The 2016 Chichester Visitation.

In Re St James Kidbrooke [2016] ECC Swk 13, the dilemma of achieving judicial balance where the outcome is (almost) certain raised a number of issues, and this was reviewed in Security for costs vs uncertainty of evidence in consistory court hearing. Other cases of note included permission for a “Blue Plaque” on the outside of a church, an objector who raised illogical; safety considerations, the occurrence of an unresponsive SPAB, and a wrongly dug grave.

At the end of December, in addition to a review of the month’s cases, we will publish and index with links to all of those we have reviewed during 2016.

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Burial and destruction of unwanted fonts – further clarification

Points arising from recent judgment on disposal of fonts

With allusions to Sydney Pollack’s 1969 award-winning film, our post They bury fonts, don’t they? considered the issues associated with the disposal of unwanted fonts raised in Re St. Peter Shipton Bellinger [2015] Winchester Const Ct, Christopher Clark Ch. In this case, three disposal options had been suggested: that it should be offered for sale; given to another church or chapel; or failing these options, buried in a convenient place in the churchyard. Although successfully appealed by the Victorian Society in the Arches Court, In Re St. Peter Shipton Bellinger [2015] Court of Arches, this latter judgment centred on the handling and determination of the case [“at every level almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong” [4]] rather than the burial or other disposal of the font. Nevertheless, the post gave rise to a valuable comment stream which we followed up in Last rites for fonts – continued.

The issue of the burial of fonts has been raised again recently in Re St Philip Scholes [2016] ECC Lee 5, and this post summarizes the review of the legal issues considered, the judgment of the court and the production of guidance by the Church Buildings Council.

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Consistory court judgments – December

A summary of consistory court judgments published late-November and during December

In our monthly round-ups of consistory court judgments, we have started adding links to assist readers in selecting those of particular interest. An index of the later judgments in 2015 has also been published, here.

At the end of each summary there is a link to the full text of these judgment on the Ecclesiastical Law Association web site. Those marked (*) were refused. In addition, to the judgments considered below, this month we posted Time-limited storage of cremation “ashes” on the legal issues surrounding temporary and permanent storage of “ashes” raised in Re Astwood Cemetery [2014] Worcester Const Ct, Charles Mynors Ch.

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Round-up of consistory court and other cases in April

Fewer than average consistory court judgements were reported during April, although there were other news items of interest.

Church of England freehold incumbents not “employees”

Just squeezing into the April review was Sharpe v The Bishop of Worcester [2015] EWCA Civ 399 in which the Court of Appeal held unanimously that the Revd Mr Sharpe, formerly freehold Rector of Teme Valley South in the Diocese of Worcester, was not an “employee” of the Bishop of Worcester for the purposes of his claim for unfair dismissal or a “worker” for the purposes of his other claims; the Court reversed the contrary finding of the Employment Appeal Tribunal and restored the ruling of the Employment Judge at first instance. Initially covered in our post here, it will be the subject of a longer analysis once we have had the chance properly to digest the judgment. The Church of England press release welcoming the judgment is here.

Burial of fonts, (or not) Continue reading

Last rites for fonts – continued

Reflecting on our recent post They bury fonts, don’t they? and the comments of the Revd Michael Ainsworth, the dilemma posed by the production of guidance on the subject is readily apparent: the only “hard law” on the disposal of fonts is a creative interpretation of Canon F 1§3 which restricts their alternative use; and other than the rejection of the CBC view on their sacramental nature in In re St Peter’s, Draycott [2009] Fam 93, there is little mention of this aspect in case law. Equally, there is little reference to the case law in the Rt Rev David Stancliffe’s Ecc LJ article Baptism and Fonts[1]. When the disposal of fonts has been considered by the courts, it is generally addressed as a side issue to the main petition/appeal, and few if any reasons are given for discouraging their burial.

However, the disposal of fonts and other items from a church or chapel is a prime consideration in the context of pastoral reorganization, and this is addressed specifically in section 76 of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011, [emphasis added]: Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 12th April

The election campaign grinds on remorselessly and there’s still over three weeks to go. For those who haven’t yet lost the will to live, here’s the roundup…

Disposing (or not) of fonts

We noted the decision in the recent judgment in Re St Peter Shipton Bellinger [2015] Winchester Cons Ct, in which the Chancellor granted a faculty for the removal of a Victorian font against the objections of the Victorian Society. On Thursday, however, The Telegraph reported “Church rector in unholy battle over ‘showy’ Victorian font.” The article states “[a] leading conservation group is gearing up for a head to head confrontation with a Hampshire rector and his church wardens in a court battle to save an ornate 134-year-old Victorian font possibly ending up buried in the church yard”, ignoring the statement of the chancellor that “burying the font in the churchyard should be regarded as very much a last resort” [26].

What surprised us in the judgment was the Chancellor’s description of the font as “not unattractive”, whereas those with different aesthetic sensibilities might have suggested it was “downright ugly”. It is also a mystery how anyone might have suggested that a feature that “dominates the west end of the building and “towers over the nearest pews” [19(c)] could be regarded as a trip hazard” – but perhaps there is local evidence to the contrary.

More health and safety jobsworths

The Telegraph also carried an item under the infantile heading “Vicar told thou shalt not go into a bar wearing sandals”, which indicates that the Revd Andrew Dotchin “was ‘gobsmacked’ after being told he was banned from going into his local wine bar because of his footwear … for health and safety reasons because a glass could fall on his foot and break a toe. Continue reading