Exhumation Supervision & Advice

Expert Evidence & Reports 5The predominant law relating to exhumation, the Burial Act 1857, has remained largely unchanged for more than 150 years. Exhumation means “any disturbance” of buried remains and includes cremated remains. Exhumations may be undertaken for a variety of reasons including the lack of burial space, redevelopment of old cemeteries or crypts, archaeological reasons, individual requests for reburial, repatriation or cremation, criminal investigations or on occasion, burial in the wrong plot. It is illegal to disturb human remains (including cremated remains) without the appropriate authorisation being obtained through one of the following methods:
  • A Ministry of Justice Licence: Where remains are to be exhumed from un-consecrated ground and reinterred in consecrated or un-consecrated ground
  • An Ecclesiastical Faculty: Where the remains are to be exhumed from consecrated ground and reinterred in consecrated or un-consecrated ground
  • A Coroners Order: Usually issued as part of a criminal investigation

The exhumation process is high risk and those responsible for undertaking exhumation works have a duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work Act to protect the health and safety of not only their workers but also that of others involved in the exhumation process. In addition to this, under the terms of a Ministry of Justice Licence an Environmental Health Officer should be present to oversee the process and to ensure that respect for the deceased person is maintained and that public health is protected.

As Environmental Health professionals we have provided assistance with exhumations under all classes of authorisation ranging from a single exhumation to larger scale exhumations involving over 100 bodies. In particular we offer the following services which are undertaken sensitively and discreetly:
  • Site supervision including providing the Environmental Health role for local authorities
  • Preparation of risk assessments & safe working methods including manual handling, COSHH and Confined Spaces
  • Ensuring compliance with Authorisations, Health & Safety, Decency and Disease Control requirements
  • Liaison with Funeral Directors, Local Authorities, the Police and other appropriate parties
Expert Evidence & Reports 6‚Äč