Britain's yob culture hit new depths yesterday as the Church of England agreed human remains could be exhumed and transferred from a Birmingham graveyard which has become a haunt of vandals and winos.
The landmark ruling from the diocesan consistory court is thought to be the first occasion church authorities anywhere in the country have approved such a request following complaints about anti-social behaviour disrupting the peace of a cemetery.
Martin Cardinal, the Chancellor for the Diocese of Birmingham, gave grieving daughter, Joan Knightley, permission to have the ashes of her father, George Phillips, dug up from the Garden of Remembrance at St James, Handsworth.
They are to be moved to West Bromwich crematorium, where his wife’s remains are also buried, to take them away from the "lawlessness" of the churchyard.
In taking his decision, Mr Cardinal criticised West Midlands Police for failing to curb the activities of the yobs.
"It is an area abused by many members of the public and the police seem unable to carry out their duties there," he said in a written ruling.
Mr Cardinal said St James did not meet diocesan requirements that churchyards should be places of quiet reflection and tranquillity.
He went on: "Rubbish is dumped there. Alcohol is consumed there. It is an area where adults think it appropriate to have a cigarette, such is their lack of respect for the departed.
"And children play football and other games there, smashing vases and stealing flowers.
"It is, in short, no place for the departed to be honoured in peace."
He stressed that normally church courts will not give permissions for the remains of the dead to be moved.
"As a general rule, it is entirely inappropriate to exhume ashes from a churchyard. Most such applications are rightly refused.
"The interment of a body or ashes should be permanent to reflect our faith in the life to come, having committed the deceased to God," he said.
The Handsworth case reflected exceptional circumstances and went against church teaching that a person’s last resting place should be just that and, except in wholly exceptional circumstances, they should not be moved.
Mr Cardinal added: "The Garden of Remembrance is abused; it is not properly policed; the churchwardens cannot be expected to protect the area from such lawlessness."
He said that he had "enormous sympathy" with Ms Knightley, who had told him that her late mother had come to regret her choice to have her husband’s ashes buried in the Garden of Remembrance.
A CoE spokeswoman said the churchyard at St James' had no railings and therefore is accessible to the public at all times.
Chief Superintendent Steve Jordan, OCU Commander at Thornhill Road police station, which covers the area, said they would be talking to the CoE to discuss and tackle the problems.