Exhumations and Public Health Funerals

The exhumation of both buried and cremated remains requires a Home Office licence or Bishop's Faculty, or in some cases both.

Exhumations can occur for a number of reasons, including:

  •  movement from the original grave to a subsequent acquired family plot;
  • repatriation overseas to be buried along with other family members;
  • transfer from one cemetery scheduled for development to another;
  • on a coroner's order for further forensic examination.

What is required:

It is an offence to exhume any human remains without first obtaining the necessary lawful permissions.

If the interment is in unconsecrated ground, a licence must be obtained from the Home Office which is free of charge.  If the person is buried in consecrated ground, permission from the church must also be obtained.  This is called a Bishop's Faculty.  A Faculty is rarely granted and a fee is payable whether it is granted or not.

If the remains are buried in consecrated ground and are to be interred in unconsecrated ground, both a Home Office licence and a Bishop's Faculty are required.  The following conditions also apply:

  • an exhumation licence contains certain conditions that have to be adhered to;
  • an Environmental Health Officer must be present at the exhumation of a body to ensure that there is no threat to public health;
  • if the remains are being interred in another country, the Home Office will need confirmation of the approval for this from the relevant authorities;
  • occasionally, cadaver certificates are required in addition to an exhumation licence;

Decency and Safety

An Environmental Health Officer supervises the exhumation to ensure that respect for the deceased is maintained and that public health is protected and that satisfactory arrangements are in place for the onward transmission of the remains.
If the conditions of the licence cannot be met, or there are public health or decency concerns, the exhumation may not proceed.