Southwark Consistory Court: George Ch, July 1999
The petitioners, an unmarried couple, were the subject of widespread press publicity in 1996 following the conception and birth of octuplets, each of whom was born prematurely but alive only to die some weeks later. Following a funeral service in the cemetery chapel, the babies were buried not in a single coffin, as the petitioners had wished, but in eight separate coffins. As a result of what the petitioners regarded as a breach of confidence (which was the subject of separate litigation), the press caused a disturbing disruption to the burial. Despite several attempts, the petitioners had found it too traumatic and upsetting to revisit the grave. The chancellor, applying Re Christ Church, Alsager  Fam 142 (noted at (1999) 5 Ecc LJ 214), was satisfied that the psychological barrier which prevented them doing so was a legitimate medical reason and that the highly unusual circumstances of the case constituted a good and proper reason for exhumation likely to be regarded as acceptable by right thinking members of the church at large. Upon a written undertaking by the petitioners not to communicate the date, time and place of exhumation and reburial to the press and others not directly concerned, a faculty was issued on condition that the exhumation and reburial (at a location not disclosed in the judgment so as to preserve privacy) take place at times when the general public were not admitted to either cemetery.
(2000) 5 Ecc LJ 389