Richmondshire District Council

Exhumations are generally rare, expensive and can be traumatic for the family involved.

For these reasons, it's always best to consult all the relatives before going ahead.

Exhumations take place for a number of reasons, including:

  • Movement from the original grave to a family plot bought later in the same or other cemetery
  • Repatriation overseas to be buried along with other family
  • Transfer from one cemetery scheduled for development to another
  • Court orders requiring further forensic examination

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

Funeral directors can help with this.

Exhumation of both buried and cremated remains generally requires a Home Office licence, which will contain certain conditions that have to be met.

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

Occasionally, cadaver certificates are required, as well as exhumation licences.

Decency and safety

An environmental health officer must be present to supervise the exhumation. He or she will make sure that the deceased person is respected and that public health is protected.

The officer will also ensure that privacy is maintained and health and safety rules are followed.

If the conditions of the licence can't be met, or there are public health or decency concerns, the exhumation may not go ahead.

For more information, email

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