Apply for an exhumation licence

Exhumation is the removal from the ground of the remains of a human being, either in the form of a body or cremated remains.

You need to apply for a licence to remove human remains from the ground. The exhumation can't proceed if the conditions of the licence aren't met or there are public health or decency concerns.

Apply for an exhumation licence

A coroner can decide to exhume a body for:

  • an inquest or inquiring into the death
  • criminal proceedings for that death or a connected death

A body or remains may also need to exhumed:

  • to move from an original grave to a new family plot
  • to bring or send back from another country to be buried with family members
  • to transfer from one cemetery scheduled for development to another

An environmental health officer must be present at the exhumation to make sure that:

  • the correct grave is opened
  • the exhumation starts early in the morning to ensure maximum privacy
  • the plot is screened for privacy
  • the health and safety of all workers
  • everyone present shows due respect to the deceased person and adjoining graves
  • the name plate on the casket corresponds to that on the licence
  • the new casket is 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 disinfected
  • arrangements are in place as to what is going to happen to the body or remains