Law and religion round-up – 9th April

The week when a “green man” became involved in the Coronation…

…albeit limited to the design of the invitations. Some have suggested links to paganism, but whilst the designation “green man” is relatively recent, its depiction in churches is not uncommon: in St Mary Redcliffe, in Bristol, there are at least thirty-six located in foliate masks around doors, roof bosses and elsewhere.

In L&RUK this week, Jonathan Chaplin’s post  Lost in transmission – on not romanticising the Coronation attracted a substantial amount of comment.

Amendments to the Treasure Act 1996

Further to our post Amendments to the Treasure Act 1996 – and an ecclesiastical exemption, the Treasure (Designation) (Amendment) Order 2023 was made on 30 March 2023 and comes into force on 30 July. Newly-discovered artefacts will be defined as “treasure” under new criteria which include the most exceptional finds over 200 years old regardless of the type of metal of which they are made, so long as they provide an important insight into the country’s heritage. However, there are a number of ecclesiastical exemptions for objects which are subject to the faculty jurisdiction and found in or on land which is also subject to the faculty jurisdiction and held or controlled by an ecclesiastical corporation, PCC or Diocesan Board of Finance. Also exempted are any objects found in or under a cathedral church or within its precinct.

Charities Act 2022: information on changes being introduced in Spring 2023

The Charities Act 2022 amends the Charities Act 2011 and, as most readers will know, its provisions are being implemented in three tranches. The Charity Commission has published short summaries of the changes that are due to come into effect in Spring 2023 and Autumn 2023 and links to its updated guidance for the changes that came into force on 31 October 2022. An overview of all the changes can be found here: Charities Act 2022: implementation plan.

“Emergency Alert” 

An earlier round-up considered the testing of the Government’s “Emergency Alert” at “early evening of Sunday 23 April 2023″ and whether this would disrupt Evensong and other services &c. Last Thursday, it was announced that the National Test of Emergency Alerts will take place at 3 pm on Sunday 23 April. Messages will be received on 4G and 5G mobile phones, along with sound and vibration for up to 10 seconds. (What happens if you happen to be on a call at 3 pm on Sunday 23 April is anyone’s guess.)

Emergency Alerts enable urgent messages to be broadcast to a defined area when there is an imminent risk to life, such as wildfires or severe flooding, such as those currently provided by the Environment Agency. This brings the UK in line with other countries such as the US and Canada that use the system. Further information on Emergency Alerts, including what they look and sound like is available at

COVID restrictions and Article 9

The former EU Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU, Dr Ján Figeľ, has brought a challenge to the Slovak Republic’s 2021 COVID restrictions on public worship before the European Court of Human Rights. The Court has communicated the case by formally notifying the Slovak Government of the application and requiring a response.

In February 2021, the Slovak Republic prolonged its COVID-related restrictions, banning cultural, social, and sporting events and religious services. Exceptions were made only for baptisms and weddings with up to six people. Dr Figeľ, a former Slovak Deputy Prime Minister, argues that the ban on communal worship for all religions was not in conformity with the Slovak Constitution and Convention rights.

“Family Graves” – again

This week we received what may be the shortest judgment we have ever had, Re Wandsworth Cemetery [2023] ECC Swk 1, in which Petchey Ch granted a faculty to allow cremated remains to be temporarily removed from a grave, in order to allow a further coffin burial, noting that the principle of exceptionality in Re Blagdon Cemetery [2002] Fam 299 “makes clear that the principle of family solidarity is to be encouraged; as is economy in the use of grave space”.

The grave will accommodate four coffin burials. It was used for three coffin burials in 1972, 1973 and 1977 respectively; and then for the interment of cremated remains in 1990. At present, the interment of cremated remains in 1990 prevents a further coffin burial. However, when the ashes are disinterred a further coffin burial is possible; it would then be possible to reinter the ashes in the same grave.

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