Exhuming (moving) a deceased body is generally rare and can be traumatic for the family involved. It can take a long time to arrange and is usually expensive. Exhumation of both buried and cremated remains generally requires a Home Office Licence.

Why do exhumations occur?

This could be for a number of reason, including

  • movement from the original grave to a subsequently acquired family plot
  • repatriation overseas to be buried along with other family
  • transfer from one cemetery scheduled for development to another
  • court orders requiring further forensic examination.


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

A licence must be obtained from the Home Office. Exhumation licences will also contain certain conditions that have to be observed.

If the person is buried in consecrated grounds, permission from the church must also be obtained.

Decency and safety

An Environmental Health Officer must be present at the exhumation to supervise the event, ensuring that respect for the deceased person is maintained and that public health is protected. The Officer will also ensure that

  • the correct grave is opened
  • the exhumation starts as early as possible in the morning to ensure privacy
  • the plot is screened as appropriate for privacy
  • health and safety of all workers is maintained
  • 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 by the Environmental Health Officer
  • 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
  • satisfactory arrangements are in place for the onward transmission of the remains