Exhumation is rare. It is the term used when buried or cremated remains are dug up to be removed. It is unlawful to disturb any human remains without first obtaining the correct authorisation. Funeral directors can help with obtaining these. If the remains are to be removed from and/or reburied in consecrated ground then a Bishops Faculty is also required.
- What is consecrated ground?
- Why would an exhumation occur?
- What authorisation is needed?
- Where do I get the required authorization?
- What happens next?
What is consecrated ground?
Land which has been declared by the church to be sacred, such as burial ground.
Why would an exhumation occur?
- There maybe a court order requiring further forensic examination;
- The family may make the request for personal reasons such as moving to a family plot in the same or different cemetery;
- A request may be made to move the remains overseas to be buried with other family members;
- At the request of new occupants on the rare ocassions where burials have taken place in private gardens;
- If a cemetery is to be redeveloped.
What authorisation is needed?
Before an exhumation takes place you must obtain a licence from the Home Office. If the person is buried in consecrated ground or to be reburied in another consecrated section then you will also need permission from the church.
There is no fee for issuing a Home Office licence, and it is normally processed within 10 working days. If you need a Bishops Faculty a fee is charged, and it may take some weeks to be sorted.
If the person is to be sent abroad to be buried you may need a cadaver certificate as well as a Home Office licence. This certificate confirms that no epidemic or infectious disease occurred in the area in the three months before the death.
It is a requirement that one of our Environmental Health Officers is present. Our Officer will be there to ensure that the correct grave is opened and the respect of the deceased is maintained. They will also make sure that public health is protected.
Where do I get the required authorization?
You can obtain a Home Office licence from the Department of Constitutional Affairs [external link].
If you need to get a Bishops faculty you will need to contact the Diocese of Norwich [external link].
The Funeral Director will usually deal with obtaining a cadaver certificate. They will also deal with any requests from the coroner and the overseas country to which the deceased is going.
What happens next?
You will need to send a copy of all the licences you have obtained to the burial authority in which the deceased is to be buried.
A copy of the Home Office licence will automatically be sent on to our Environmental Health Department. If authorisation has been obtained from the church then they will also contact us.
Arrangements will then be made for the exhumation to take place.
Department of Constitutional Affairs
Gives contact details for application forms and guidance notes.
The section ‘Burial Law & Policy in the 21st Century’ includes information on the process of exhumation.
|contact officer/team:||Environmental protection team|
|web:||online enquiry form|
|address:||South Norfolk Council
South Norfolk House
Norwich NR15 2XE
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Last updated on: 12 December 2011