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RELIGIOUS CRIMINAL OFFENCES
(Offences involving disorder in Churches or Cemeteries)

There remain on the statute book a small number of 19th Century offences dealing with disorder in Churches and cemeteries. They deal with offences relating to Church of England Clergy and Churches and are widely regarded as obsolete today. The type of behaviour they deal with can also prosecuted as either “ordinary” or “religiously aggravated” public order or violence offences. These offences were discussed in a 2003 House of Lords Report

Cemeteries Clauses Act 1847 s59

Disturbances and nuisances in cemetery
Every person who shall play at any game or sport, or discharge firearms, save at a military funeral, in the cemetery, or who shall wilfully and unlawfully disturb any persons assembled in the cemetery for the purpose of burying any body therein, or who shall commit any nuisance within the cemetery, shall forfeit for every such offence a sum not exceeding level 1 on the standard scale

Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860 s2

Penalty for making a disturbance in churches, chapels, churchyards etc
Any person who shall be guilty of riotous, violent, or indecent behaviour in England in any cathedral church, parish or district church, or chapel of the Church of England, or in any chapel of any religious denomination, or in England in any place of religious worship duly certified under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855, 18 & 19 Vict c 81, whether during the celebration of Divine service, or at any other time, or in any churchyard, or burial-ground, or who shall molest, let, disturb, vex, or trouble, or by any other unlawful means disquiet or misuse any preacher duly authorised to preach therein, or any clergyman in Holy Orders ministering or celebrating any sacrament or any Divine service, rite, or office in any cathedral church or chapel, churchyard, or burial ground shall on conviction thereof before two justices of the peace, be liable to a penalty of not more than level 1 on the standard scale, or may, if the justices before whom he shall be convicted think fit, instead of being subjected to any pecuniary penalty be committed to prison for any time not exceeding two months.

 Offences Against the Person Act 1861, s 36.

Assaulting clergymen, etc
Whoever shall, by threats or force, obstruct or prevent or endeavour to obstruct or prevent, any clergyman or other minister in or from celebrating Divine service or otherwise officiating in any church, chapel, meeting house, or other place of Divine worship, or in or from the performance of his duty in the lawful burial of the dead in any churchyard or other burial place, or shall strike or offer any violence to, or shall, upon any civil process, or under pretence of executing any civil process, arrest any clergyman or other minister who is engaged in, or to the knowledge of the offender is about to engage in, any of the rites or duties in this section aforesaid, or who to the knowledge of the offender shall be going to perform the same or returning from the performance thereof, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the Court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years.

Burial Laws Amendment Act 1880 s7

Burials to be conducted in a decent and orderly manner and without obstruction
All burials under this Act, whether with or without a religious service, shall be conducted in a decent and orderly manner; and every person guilty of any riotous, violent, or indecent behaviour at any burial under this Act, or wilfully obstructing such burial or any such service as aforesaid thereat, or who shall, in any such churchyard or graveyard as aforesaid, deliver any address, not being part of or incidental to a religious service permitted by this Act, and not otherwise permitted by any lawful authority, or who shall, under colour of any religious service or otherwise, in any such churchyard or graveyard, wilfully endeavour to bring into contempt or obloquy the Christian religion, or the belief or worship of any church or denomination of Christians, or the members or any minister of any such church or denomination, or any other person, shall be guilty of an offence.
(NB This offence is triable only on indictment)

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