Court victory for Denmead families ‘distressed’ by grave mistake as parish council’s error means parishoner is buried in the wrong cemetery plot
TWO Denmead families have emerged victorious in a four-year battle with their parish council over a cemetery plot mix-up.
Following a civil court case, it was held that Denmead Parish Council negligently caused a parishioner to be buried in the wrong grave.
In 1997, Denmead resident Colin Cleverley reserved a plot for himself in the cemetery off Kidmore Lane.
He wants to be buried next to his daughter Samantha, who died in a car crash 25 years ago at the age of 16.
However, in March 2017, he was ‘hurt’ to discover that his reserved plot below Samantha had been dug up - and was about to be used by another Denmead family, who were unaware of the mix-up.
The late Mrs Sharp was laid to rest at the head of her husband’s grave - even though she had specifically requested to be buried at his feet in another neighbouring grave - which was the plot that Colin had reserved for himself.
Colin and the Sharps’ children both reported the error to Denmead Parish Council, but say that nothing was done.
Eventually, action was taken in the civil courts by the Sharp family with Colin in support, and on March 22 of this year, the court held the parish council negligent, ordering them to pay for all expenses and damages.
The Sharps said that this was a ‘long, unnecessary, distressing experience for both families’, and that both families have been hurt by the mix-up.
Mrs Sharp has now been exhumed and reburied in the correct plot, while the space next to Samantha Cleverley has been reserved for her father, Colin.
Denmead man Andy Sharp, 64, the son of Mrs Sharp, said: ‘The judge said it was the most complex small claims he's ever heard and said the council’s got to pay for it all - the excavation, the reburial, the funeral director, the minister.
‘I'm relieved that mum’s where she ought to be, where she wanted to be.’
Colin, 65, said that he was ‘pleased’ with the outcome of the court case, and that he did not expect to have something like this happen in an area such as Denmead.
He added: ‘It shouldn’t be that way, fighting the council for your wishes when you’ve lost your daughter and you just want to be close to her, and they took that away from me.
‘But I know now, that’s mine.’
Denmead Parish Council says that as it had entered into contracts with Colin and Mrs Sharp, the clerk was ‘duty bound to adhere to the legally binding contract’.
It also says that it was unaware of the letter from Mrs Sharp to the parish council, requesting to be buried ‘at her husband’s feet’.
The council added: ‘The parish council carried out their duties in good faith and as per their regulations.
‘The small claims court found that the parish council had made a clerical error over 24 years ago and that Denmead Parish Council should pay the exhumation costs and the court costs.’