Gaining permission for an exhumation can be long, complicated and traumatic. Lawful consent is required to perform an exhumation.

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

There are various reasons given in relation to an application for an exhumation:  Relatives may wish to move a body from a grave to another family grave or vault in the same or a different cemetery or to be cremated. Other personal family reasons might include repatriation overseas.   A Coroner, with a warrant, may also order an exhumation.

Regardless of the reason, an exhumation is a traumatic occurrence for all those involved and should only be considered after carefully thinking through the whole process and getting as much information as possible from all the relevant authorities before proceeding.  It is also important discuss the issues and implications with other members of your family.

Authorisation

The route to be taken for exhumation depends on whether the land in which the human remains are positioned is consecrated or unconsecrated.  The term "consecrated" means dedicated to the service of God according to the rites of the Church of England.  A Bishop of the Church of England carries out consecration of land. You will need to check with the Council whether your plot is consecrated or unconsecrated.

If human remains are to be exhumed from consecrated ground you will need to apply for a Bishops Faculty. Some select parts of Welwyn Hatfield Lawn Cemetery have never been consecrated.  This includes the cremated remains plots and Islamic Faith sections.  In these situations you, with the Council, will need to apply for an Exhumation Licence from the Ministry of Justice.

Obtaining consents

Approval needs to be obtained from Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council's Cemetery Services. Please Contact us for relevant consents and correct applications. Once you have obtained all the licenses you will need to forward these onto the Cemetery Services department.

Arrangements can then be made to carry out the exhumation and ensure that if any of the licenses have special conditions listed these are fully considered.   A copy of the Licence will be automatically sent to the councils Environmental Health Department, so they can ensure the safety of public health. Exhumations are generally carried out early in the morning to ensure maximum privacy and an Environmental Health Officer for Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council will be in attendance along with a Funeral Director and Council Bereavement Services staff. 

Costs

The cost of an exhumation can be substantial so the financial implications should be clearly established at the outset.  It is very difficult to give precise details.  Remember to include, for example:

· Memorial removal costs

· Bishop's Faculty fees. There is no fee from the Ministry of Justice for the issue of an Exhumation Licence

· Funeral director's charges, including the cost of a new coffin or cremated remains casket

· Cemetery fees and charges for exhumation and re-interment.