Sunday, 2 March 2014

An Amateur Burial in Brighton

Copyright Janet Cameron
An action was brought against a bereaved father and his friend as reported in the Brighton Herald of 11 February 1860.  The case was heard by Dr. Lushington on 8 February, and the defendants were grocer James Clem Friend, the bereaved father and his friend, Richard Ballard, who was a miller.

Dr. Phillimore Q.C. was prosecuting. He was appearing on behalf of Mr. Johnson, secretary to the Bishop of Chichester, who had instituted the suit to vindicate the law.

An Unbaptised Child

The defendants were both charged with having, in the month of December 1859, collected an assembly of persons in the churchyard of Patcham, and without authority, burying the body of an unbaptised child, son of James Friend, and performing a burial service over the corpse.

The men had admitted in writing that they had committed this offence. In view of this prompt admission, the Bench said that the prisoners should be dealt with as leniently as possible.

The Clergyman's Prerogative

Dr. Phillimore stated that the clergyman of the parish, with the approval of the Bishop, had offered on this occasion to offer every possible sympathy and respect for the parents, provided it was not inconsistent with his duty. 

The parties had acted in defiance of the law and threatened to do the same in the future. It was necessary to have recourse to the Court to prevent a repetition. Not to do so could lead to serious irregularities and desecration since only a clergyman can perform any services or any rites on consecrated ground.

The Verdict

Therefore, Dr. Phillimore said he must ask the Court to administer such an admonition and to ensure the two parties appearing before them were made to pay the costs.  Dr. Lushington agreed that the two men had acted illegally by burying the child and publicly performing a burial service at the same time.

An admonition was given and a warning not to repeat the offence. They were ordered to pay the costs of the case.

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