UPDATE: The family of a Roman Catholic man have been assured he will not be exhumed despite a complaint from a Muslim family that a “non-believer” had been buried next to their relation. You can read more about it here.
(The Telegraph) - Local authority in Leicestershire tells the family of Shadrack Smith, 89, he might be moved to another plot after complaints from a Muslim family.
Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, could be dragged into a messy legal battle after a Muslim family demanded that a “non-believer” who was buried next to their relation be exhumed for religious reasons.
The unnamed Muslim family raised objections after an 89-year-old Roman Catholic man was buried in a plot adjacent to their relation.
Shadrack Smith was buried in the multi-denominational Lychgate Lane Cemetery in Burbage, Leicestershire, following his funeral on Jan 30.
Mr Smith had lived in an official gipsy camp in nearby Aston Firs for more than 20 years, and in excess of 400 relations and friends attended his funeral.
His family later received notice that relations of the man buried alongside him had complained because Mr Smith was not an adherent of the Islamic faith.
Islamic religious authorities say that it is forbidden for non-Muslims to be buried alongside Muslims under normal circumstances.
Mr Smith’s family have now been warned by town hall officials that Mr Smith’s grave may be moved.
If Burbage parish council decides to overrule Mr Smith’s family’s wishes, it would fall to Mr Grayling’s Ministry of Justice to approve the application to exhume and relocate his remains.
His family, which includes eight children, 25 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren, have vowed to fight “tooth and nail” to stop any exhumation taking place.
Any bid to move human remains requires a licence from the Ministry’s officials.
“The consents of all the next of kin of the deceased are normally required,” official guidance says. “The MoJ receives over 1,000 licence applications a year. Each will be considered on its merits, but applications made for private family reasons on behalf of the next of kin will, subject to any other necessary consents, normally be considered sympathetically.” But Mr Smith’s family have vowed to fight any move to relocate his remains.
His daughter-in-law, Tracey Smith, 46, said: “This whole thing has devastated our family. We were told when we bought the plots that it was a multi-faith cemetery, but the council has been so unsupportive.
“I feel for the Muslim family because they obviously thought they were only going to have other Muslim families buried around them. But that’s not our fault.
“The council has tried to bend over backwards to please the Muslim family.
“We have been told we might have to exhume Shady if the council decide to side with them. There is no way Shady will be exhumed. If they suggest it, we will take them to the highest court in the land. We will fight tooth and nail to stop the grave being dug up.”
Mr Smith’s family were warned by the council four days before his funeral that the owners of the plot adjacent to theirs had complained, but declined to amend their plans. His family paid £2,500 for three plots at the cemetery, including one hand-picked for its position, facing towards Mr Smith’s home, a Romany tradition. Burbage parish council confirmed that the cemetery is unsegregated, adding that: “So that people of all denominations can use Burbage Cemetery, the graveyard ground at Lychgate Lane is unconsecrated.”
Richard Flemming, the Council chairman, said: “Unfortunately the parish council has recently received representation from two families regarding the allocation of adjacent grave plots within Burbage Cemetery.
“The parish council is sympathetic to the feelings of both families concerned and is committed to working with the relatives and the wider community to reach an amicable and acceptable solution.”