Law and religion round-up – 1st October

“70 years of human rights trashed in 30 minutes”?

John Crace, The Guardian

The Home Secretary and the ECHR

The Times reports that “Suella Braverman has been authorised by Downing Street to float the prospect of leaving the European Convention on Human Rights as a ‘warning shot’ to the Strasbourg court not to block flights deporting migrants to Rwanda”, in advance of the Supreme Court hearing on the legality of the Government’s policy on shipping asylum seekers to Rwanda. According to the report:

“Downing Street confirmed that it had approved her speech, saying it ‘went through the normal process’ of being signed off. The Times understands that No 10 allowed Braverman to float the prospect of Britain leaving the convention. It is being seen as a strategy to put pressure on the Strasbourg court not to block Rwanda flights.”

“Net zero” targets

As we noted last week, whilst the Church of England’s target year for Net Zero is 2030, the Government’s opportunistic relaxation on the replacement of gas and oil boilers is unlikely to impact on this target, since it is governed by the Faculty Jurisdiction (Amendment) Rules 2022 and CBC Guidance. However, within this guidance, permission was granted to install gas-fired heating in two more churches: see Re Christ Church Gipsy Hill [2023] ECC Swk 8 and Re St Anselm Kennington Cross [2023] ECC Swk6. Although some Chancellors have in similar cases imposed a condition relating to offsetting in order to meet the challenge of meeting carbon neutrality, the Chancellor decided not to impose such a condition in these cases. 

There have now been seven judicial considerations of replacement boilers since the new rules came into force on 1 July 2022. Both of the above judgments were handed down by Petchey Ch on the same day and therefore received quite similar judicial consideration. A future post will examine these and the approaches taken in other judgments to meet the new criteria. 

Scattering of ashes

In Re Bretforton Cemetery [2023] ECC Wor 2, Humphreys Ch determined that the circumstances of the petition fitted within the legal exceptions to the doctrine of permanence and granted a faculty to allow: the cremated remains to be exhumed; a portion of the ashes taken for scattering; and the remainder of the ashes to be reinterred in the grave plot. Although in general the scattering of remains is not permitted by the Church of England, the guidance Burial of a portion of a deceased’s body or ashes published by the General Synod Legal Advisory Commission in 2019 provides a rationale in its statement:

“The removal of “some few particles of … cremated remains” prior to interment would be regarded as de minimis and the remaining ashes would still constitute those of a human body. In cases of doubt the matter must be referred to the bishop and the minister must obey his order and direction: see Canon B 38, paragraph 6.”

In Re Bretforton Cemetery, “strewing” the ashes (rather than “scattering” an aliquot portion elsewhere) in the same burial plot would be contrary to the wishes of the deceased.  

Man banned from “every single church in the UK”

On 24 September, the Daily Mirror carried the story, Man banned from every single church in the UK after decades-long stealing spree. In addition to imposing a custodial sentence of three years and four months for the many burglaries and a concurrent 18 months for the associated thefts, HHJ Pringle KC signed a Criminal Behaviour Order banning him from entering churches or religious buildings without written permission from a church worker or minister. Although there is a common law right to enter a parish church, this is a right for parishioners to attend divine service: see Who may enter a parish church?

Commenting on the case, the Diocese of Oxford said “One of the reasons the rural crime unit could act so quickly was a great recording from a simple Nest camera. Nest cameras cost around £90 plus an annual fee and similar devices are available from Ring”. 

Quick links

And finally…I

This week, one of the top “7-day highlights” identified in our statistics was the post in April 2020 – A dismantled organ, a deceased organ builder, and a digital dispute, which concerned the organ at St Mary Bampton, Re St Mary Bampton Proper [2020] ECC Oxf 6. We can only assume that this was prompted by the recent marriage of Michelle Dockery, whose marriage as Lady Mary (Season 3, Downton Abbey) was filmed in the church. The link, however, is tenuous for although the organ was used during filming, it was not considered suitable for the final cut, and has subsequently been modified following the grant of a faculty. 

And finally…II

The appointment of The Rt Revd Deborah Sellin, Suffragan Bishop of Southampton, for election as Bishop of Peterborough initiated earnest speculation on Thinking Anglicans as to who would leapfrog over whom and become one of the Lords Spiritual. However, the last word on episcopal leapfrogging surely goes to The Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie who in his Field Guide to English Clergy, [One World 2018] commented: 

“The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Frederick Hervey, Earl of Bristol (1730-1803), when Bishop of Cloyne, was particularly fond of leapfrogging and would routinely arrange his Chaplains on the lawn of his palace in such a way as to create a course round which he could jump”.

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