Burrows v HM Coroner for Preston

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division
Judgment Date15 May 2008
Neutral Citation[2008] EWHC 1387 (QB)
Docket NumberCase No: TLQ080276

[2008] EWHC 1387 (QB)



The Royal Courts of Justice


London WC2R




The Honourable Mr Justice Cranston



Case No: TLQ080276


Kevin Borrows
Hm Coroner For Preston
Joan Mcmanus
(Interested Party)
Interested Party

Paul Bowen (instructed by Bhatt Murphy, Solicitors) appeared on behalf of the Claimant

Simon Vaughan appeared on behalf of the Defendant

Jason Smith appeared on behalf of the Interested Party

UPONHEARING Counsel for the Claimant, the Defendant and the Interested Party



Who has the right to make the funeral arrangements: the natural parents of a young man on the one hand, or a person who has brought him up for a considerable period of his life on the other? The common law provides a bright line rule, although the issue which has arisen in this case is whether that bright line has been blurred through the lens of statute and the European Convention of Human Rights. One group, which needs clarity, is coroners. So the present case has ramifications beyond the resolution of the particular dispute which has arisen.



Liam McManus ('Liam') was found hanging in his cell at Lancaster Farm Young Offenders Institution in November of last year. He was pronounced dead when the staff and the paramedics failed to resuscitate him. He was only 15 years old. The claimant, Kevin Burrows ('Mr Burrows') is his paternal uncle and has brought him up over the last eight years. The interested party, Joan McManus ('Mrs McManus') is Liam's natural mother. Liam's father was Graham Burrows. Graham Burrows and Mrs McManus had two children. Natalie was born in 1982 and Liam 10 years later. Liam also had a step-brother, Dylan. Graham Burrows was the father.


Both Graham Burrows and Mrs McManus were addicted to heroin when Liam was born. Graham Burrows died a few years after Liam's birth. Mrs McManus has been a heroin addict now for a quarter of a century. Because of his parent's addiction both Liam and Natalie lived initially with their maternal grandmother. The family in Liverpool helped care for the children. At one point Liam had gone to live with an uncle but the uncle reached a stage where he could not cope and Liam returned to his grandmother. By now, Liverpool Social Services had become involved. Liam was placed with Thomas Jago when he was five years old in temporary foster care. It seems that during Liam's foster care with Thomas Jago, there was provision for contact between Liam and his mother, Mrs McManus, and this was to be supervised by a social worker. Liam's mother did not always keep appointments. Liam's grandmother died in January 1999 and after that Liam's contact with his mother and her family ceased.


By coincidence, Thomas Jago knew Mr Burrows, Liam's uncle, and the claimant in these proceedings. When Mr Burrows realised that Liam was his nephew, he offered himself as an alternative carer for Liam. Mr Burrows, who gave evidence, described how he first saw the small boy with Thomas Jago and on hearing of the relationship thought he had a responsibility. He and his wife had their own children, Jason, who died in 2002, Lisa, Kevin Junior and Laura. A full residence order was made at Liverpool Family Proceedings Court in favour of the Burrows in September 2000. Mr Burrows described in evidence the process that all the family had to go through in the run up to the court granting the residence order. It appears from the face of the order that it provided for no contact with Liam's mother. Liam became part of the Burrows family. Mr and Mrs Burrows became his mother and father, and he described them as such. I was shown a series of cards and letters where he described them as mum and dad. There was an especially close relationship between Liam and the Burrows daughter, Laura. They were about the same age, and perhaps it is not surprising that there was a special bond between them.


Once Liam went to senior school, he started to get into trouble. Mr Burrows said he got into contact with the wrong crowd. He started to consume alcohol to excess and Mr Burrows described how, in that event, he became an angry little man. Relations were strained on occasions with the Burrows. From time to time, Liam rejected Mr Burrows as his father. He started to stand on his own rights in relation to discipline Mr Burrows might have tried to apply. At one point, Liam was sent on temporary respite with a neighbour, but that did not last long and he returned to the Burrows.


There is no doubt in my mind that the Burrows were, as Baroness Hale of Richmond describes it in Re G (Children) [2006] 1 WLR 2305 at 2316 F-G, the psychological parents of Liam. As she analyses it, these are parents who are neither genetic nor gestational, but who have become in effect parents of a child and thus have an important contribution to make to its welfare. As I say, despite the trouble that Liam got into the Burrows were still his mum and dad. Mr Burrows told me in evidence that he did not claim to be Liam's father, but that he had a sense of responsibility towards him.


Last year, not surprisingly given that he was growing up, Liam wanted to make contact with his natural mother and his natural mother's family. He saw his natural mother, Mrs McManus, on a number of occasions in the middle of 200Mr Burrows took Liam to Liverpool on three occasions, and on the first two occasions Mrs McManus met him. There was a bond between them. Mrs McManus, in her evidence, described how thrilled she was at that bond. She described how the two started to make plans. Although she was living with Natalie, the intention was that at some point they might get a flat together. She acknowledged that she would have to stay clear of drugs for a period to demonstrate that she would be able to do to this. She started to make plans, she told the Court. Although she accepted that Liam had a close relationship with the Burrows, nonetheless, he was there with them because she was not able to care for him at one point. The relationship with him was very close.


She was to meet him at his hearing before a court on the 23rd of August of last year. The plan was that if he got off, he was to have a meal with her. Natalie, his sister, had intended to be at the court but could not get there because she was looking after her children that day. Mrs McManus was expected. Mrs Burrows gave evidence and described how Liam was very anxious awaiting the arrival of his mother at court and was bitterly disappointed when she did not appear. Mr Burrows gave evidence that despite the problems and despite the fact that there was a bond between Liam and his mother, which he acknowledged and recognised may develop because he was getting old enough to make his own decisions, nonetheless Liam was still part of the Burrows family.


Liam had already been self-harming. The tragedy of his death does not need to be stated. But the tragedy was compounded because of what happened subsequently. There was an inquest into the death by the coroner. After that was concluded, Mr Burrows began to make funeral arrangements. However, when Mrs McManus heard she made a claim for Liam's body. The coroner, Dr Adeley in a statement to the court, described how at some point he became aware that a dispute had arisen between Liam's natural mother and the Burrows. He had been informed by his Coroner's Officer, Christopher Fawcett, of the various representations made by Mrs McManus. He understood that the relevant law was that the mother's wishes took priority. He had Christopher Fawcett attempt to mediate. Christopher Fawcett, in a statement to the court, described how he had tried to compromise between the parties. At one point, Mrs McManus appeared to agree to a compromise arrangement but then, on reflection, had contacted him and said that she wanted the body to be buried in Liverpool, along with other members of the family. Mr Fawcett describes how she would not back down whatever other arrangements were suggested to her. Liam had given clear indications that he wanted to be cremated. This arose partly, it seems, at the time of the death of Mr Burrow's own son. There was talk by Liam of his fear of worms. Apparently, as well, the issue had arisen when Liam started to self-harm. In at least one conversation with Mr Burrows, Liam was told by Mr Burrows that if he self harmed to any greater extent he would be dead. He had said to Mr Burrows on that occasion that if he ever died then he wanted to be cremated.


In her evidence, Mrs McManus acknowledged that Liam wanted to be cremated, and in fact she told the Court that the fear of worms may well have gone back much earlier to Liam's early childhood. Yesterday, on the very eve of the hearing, Mrs McManus accepted cremation for Liam. Although, she told me that she had been content with this months ago, the plain fact is that she was telling the coroner's office, as I have described, that she wanted Liam buried. Mr Burrow's solicitors wrote to her on a number of occasions to ask about this, but there was no reply. She was insisting on burial although she told the court that she knew that this was against Liam's express wishes. Perhaps, understandably, given her Irish Catholic background, she believed in burial. Nonetheless, Liam had expressed a very clear wish.


The claimant in this action, Mr Burrows, now wishes to have Liam's body released to him for the purposes of making the funeral arrangements. He wishes for Liam to be cremated...

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  • Frozen Corpses and Feuding Parents: Re JS (Disposal of Body)
    • United Kingdom
    • The Modern Law Review Nbr. 81-1, January 2018
    • 1 Enero 2018
    ...[1999] 1 FLR 767; Hartshorne vGardner [2008] EWHC B3 (Ch); ScotchingvBirch [2008] EWHC 844 (Ch); Burrows vHM Coroner for Preston [2008] 2 FLR 1225; andAnstey vMundle [2016] EWHC 1073.48 In other words, where an adult child dies without leaving a spouse or civil partner, or a child ofhis/her......

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