illegal exhumation

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On Remembrance Sunday, a charity will launch a website, calling on the government to stop colluding with the unlawful destruction of graves created within living memory.

WW2 veterans in Halifax protested in vain, over the destruction of their family graves in 1993, in what had been Methodist burial ground. After the destruction, John Bradfield of the Alice Barker Trust, who had published a book on burial law, pointed out that the government continued to act unlawfully. He said, “Families had purchased the rights to continue with burials. They were the owners of their gravestones which could not be removed or destroyed without their prior consents. An adjacent burial ground could suffer the same fate, if the government continues to defy the requirements of the law”.

In 2010, the Ministry of Justice caused what archaeologists referred to as a “crisis”, because of confusion over the law and refusals to issue exhumation licences in the same circumstances as previously.

John Bradfield is highly critical of the Ministry of Justice. He said, “It recently squandered the first opportunity in 155 years, by failing to explain the issues in the highest courts in the land”. The Court of Appeal upheld a judicial review decision, that a religious order can trump a close relative, over whether a grave can be destroyed. The Supreme Court refused an application for a further appeal.

John Bradfield said, “The family graves of war veterans will continue to be destroyed, with the collusion of the government, unless the Ministry of Justice clarifies the law in the courts or creates the modern legislation which has long been called for”.

Contact details

John Bradfield, Alice Barker Trust, 7 Knox Road, Harrogate, HG1 3EF.

Tel. 01423 530 900.


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