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Update on Funeral Pyres

Posted on Feb 15 2010
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On 10 February 2010 Ivan Vince of ASK Consultants was at the Court of Appeal to witness Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger rule that 'open air' funeral pyres were lawful under British law, fulfilling the wish of Davender Kumar Ghai, a 71 year old Hindu, to be 'naturally cremated in a sacrament of fire'.

In February 2006 Newcastle City Council had rejected Mr Ghai's proposal for a designated, private natural cremation site enabling funeral pyre cremations, claiming they would be illegal under the Cremation Act 1902. That decision was upheld by the High Court in May 2009.

Following the acceptance by Mr Ghai that cremation could be undertaken within a structure similar to those built for this purpose in other countries - structures enclosed but without roof, thus allowing the soul of the deceased to escape freely from his body - Lord Neuberger stated that such a structure would not contravene the Cremation Act 1902.

On the matter of public decency, Lord Neuberger ruled that "the Cremation Act did not require cremations to be completely publicly invisible" thus rejecting this matter as a ground for ruling against cremation within structures as proposed by Mr Ghai.

Mr Ghai now proposes to have a structure built to accommodate cremation and is planning to negotiate with landowners who have offered land for this purpose. Erection of this structure will go through the normal planning application process, a process which the Court of Appeal acknowledges may give rise to difficulties because of planning and public health legislation. These difficulties were not under consideration at this stage.

ASK Consultants had earlier assessed the potential exposure of the public to pollutants from a fully open-air funeral pyre, using a model based on data from the foot-and-mouth pyres, and concluded that there was no significant health risk with the separation distances envisaged (in excess of 500m).

See previous post on Ivan Vince giving evidence on the matter.

Last changed: Mar 07 2010 at 3:30 PM


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