Church court for a grave hearing

The Church of St Lawrence with St Paul

The Church of St Lawrence with St Paul

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A court is coming to a Longridge church next week to determine whether or not a non-parishioner can reserve a grave next to her relative.

Blackburn Cathedral Canon Andrea Titterington’s request for the plot at St Lawrence’s Church has raised objections from parishioners and a refusal from the parochial church council.

The vicar, the Rev David Anderson, said: “One of the main reasons was the limited amount of burial space in the churchyard for Longridge people. The lady concerned has taken the matter to the diocese and applied for a private faculty. In light of the large number of objections, there is to be an open court hearing at St Lawrence’s Church.”

The Chancellor of the Diocese, former barrister and retired circuit judge John W Bullimore, will preside at the hearing next Tuesday at 10.30am. Also present will be several people who wish to comment. The vicar added: “Anyone is welcome to attend this case which could have significant implications for our churchyard.”

The consistory, or open, court to be held at St Lawrence’s Church in Longridge next Tuesday, is a very unusual event for a parish church.

They do take place occasionally, however, an example being that, between 2007 and 2009, four were held in the Blackburn diocese.

A diocesan spokesman explained that all consecrated land - church buildings, consecrated burial grounds, churchyards and other consecrated buildings - is subject to the jurisdiction of the consistory court.

Most are paper based and deal primarily with what is known as ‘Faculty Jurisdiction.’

Effectively if you want to ‘do’ anything to consecrated land you need to obtain the permission known as a Faculty.

So if you want to put a new noticeboard up in a church, replace a boiler, extend a church building, legally reserve a grave space in a churchyard, you need a Faculty. Applications for Faculty are known as petitions which must be given public notice over 28 days minimum, through newspapers or the diocesan website.

Most are relatively straightforward, but if objections are received, the Chancellor may determine the petition through the court, as in this case.

The consistory court conducts itself in a similar way to civil court proceedings. Both the petitioner and the objectors submit written statements and then give oral evidence at the hearing.

Cross examination may take place and the Chancellor can pose questions to both parties.

After hearing the evidence the Chancellor decides whether to grant a Faculty or to refuse the petition.

It will be determined by the Chancellor at his discretion taking into account all the facts of the individual case. He may also make orders as to who should pay the costs of the proceedings.

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