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Court rules against reinterment of remains for family's convenience

17 February 2023

Andy Scott/Creative Commons

Hampton Cemetery, west London

Hampton Cemetery, west London

A CONSISTORY court has ruled that remains may not be reinterred merely for the convenience of the family maintaining the grave.

The case concerned the remains of Luise Tolfree, which were interred in Hampton Cemetery, south-west London, in 1989. The petition was brought by her son Kenneth Tolfree, who lives on the Isle of Wight, with the consent of his brothers, Robin and Ricky.

Mr Tolfree requested reinterment on the grounds that the distance from the Isle of Wight to the columbarium in which his mother’s ashes were interred meant that maintenance of the memorial plaque would be neglected.

In a written judgment, the Chancellor of the diocese of London, the Worshipful David Etherington KC, ruled that the length of time since the interment, together with the fact that the proposed move was not to a shared plot, but simply to bring the grave closer to living family members, contributed to his decision that the petition did not constitute a “compelling exception” to the expectation that interment in consecrated ground was permanent.

“Families move over time and the problem of looking after memorials comes to many and, indeed, eventually to nearly all,” Mr Etherington wrote. He ruled: “I cannot permit an exhumation simply because family members have moved their addresses.”

Mr Etherington also noted that no specific plot on the Isle of Wight had been secured, but that if, in the future, a family plot in consecrated ground was acquired, then “there may be better grounds for seeking exhumation.”

He also noted that Mr Tolfree’s brother Robin lived in Teddington, close to the cemetery where Mrs Tolfree’s remains were currently interred.

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