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Exhuming a deceased body

Exhumations are generally rare and tend to be traumatic for the family involved. They can take a long time to arrange and are usually expensive. For these reasons, it is always best to consult with all the relatives before proceeding.

Exhumation of both buried and cremated remains generally requires a licence from the Ministry of Justice.

Telephone: 020 3334 6390
Website: The Ministry of Justice

If the remains are in consecrated ground then permission must be obtained from the Diocesan Court.

From time to time, due to varying circumstances, it may be necessary to move the remains of an individual from a grave. This process is called exhumation.

Exhumation means the removal from the ground of a body or cremated remains. It also covers the disturbance of remains within a grave, particularly when a grave is reopened for burial. It is important to understand that it is unlawful to disturb any human remains (this includes any cremated remains) without first obtaining the necessary legal authority.

Costs

The cost of an exhumation can be substantial, so the financial implications should be clearly established from the outset. It is very difficult to give precise details. Although there is no fee for a DCA licence, remember to include:

  • Memorial removal costs
  • Funeral director’s charges, including the cost of a new coffin or cremated remains casket
  • Cemetery fees and charges for exhumation and reinterment by the local authority

Decency and safety

Both an Environmental Health and Cemeteries Officer must be present at the exhumation and will supervise the event to ensure that respect for the deceased person is maintained and that public health is protected. The Officer/s will also ensure that:

  • the correct grave is opened,
  • the exhumation begins as early as possible in the morning to ensure maximum privacy,
  • the plot is screened for privacy,
  • health and safety of all workers is maintained - for example, protective clothing including masks and gloves, task lights and all other necessary equipment is provided,
  • everyone present shows due respect to the deceased person and to adjoining graves,
  • the nameplate on the casket corresponds to that on the licence,
  • the new casket has been approved
  • all human remains and all the pieces of casket are placed in the new casket,
  • the new casket is properly sealed,
  • the area of exhumation is properly disinfected, and
  • satisfactory arrangements are in place for the onward transmission of the remains
  • all full body exhumations are carried out by an external company who are experienced in this field 
  • contact with the bereaved family is maintained at all times via the Cemeteries Manager in a sympathetic manner to ensure their wishes are respected.

If the conditions of the licence cannot be met, or there are public health or decency concerns, the exhumation may not proceed.

All exhumation applications and requests are dealt with individually and further detailed information can be obtained from the Cemetery Manager.

If you have any queries on exhumation in Dacorum, or you need more independent advice, please contact the Cemetery Manager.

Contact us

Address:
Woodwells Cemetery
Buncefield Lane
Hemel Hempstead
Herts
HP2 7HY

Telephone: 01442 228066
Email: cemeteries@dacorum.gov.uk