Once a body is buried it cannot be disturbed or dug up and moved without permission.
If the body is in a consecrated section of a cemetery and you want to rebury it in consecrated ground, you need a Bishop’s Faculty that can be applied for using this form. It should be sent to The Chancellor for the Church of England diocese where the graveyard is located. For Roman Catholic and non-conformist churches please contact the local church direct for information.
If the body is in consecrated ground and you want to re-bury it in unconsecrated ground you need both a Ministry of Justice licence and Bishops Faculty.
If the body is in unconsecrated ground and you want to re-bury it in unconsecrated ground you need a Ministry of Justice licence.
Some argue, based on very clear decisions from the highest judges in the land, that the MoJ cannot legally issue exhumation licences for private land. The MoJ disagrees, pointing to recent court cases over a RC priest and Richard III. One had been buried in the grounds of a former RC school and the other what had become a car park. In neither of those cases were the courts asked to examine earlier judgments. More importantly, they were not asked to decide whether or not exhumation licences can be issued for private land. In both cases, the courts were asked to decide different questions about exhumation licences. John Bradfield sought assurances from the MoJ that the courts would be told, “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. As that was not done, he is now alleging that the courts were deliberately misled. In a criminal case, that would result in imprisonment.
A coroner can order an exhumation if s/he wants to examine the body.
Under certain circumstances, such as for the purposes of town planning, bodies can be moved. Section 2 of the Disused Burial Grounds (Amendment) Act 1981 concerns the disposal of human remains. It provides that where there is land contains human remains, no building shall be erected on that land (s.2 (1)), unless:
The building is erected in accordance with Section 3 of the Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884, which provides that it is not lawful to erect any buildings upon disused burial grounds, unless the purpose is to enlarge a church, chapel, meeting house, or another place of worship.
The said remains have been removed and created or otherwise dealt with lawfully. (s.2 (1) (a));
Any tombstones, monuments or memorials relating to the deceased persons have to be dealt with lawfully (s.2(1)(b) (Disused Burial Grounds (Amendment) Act 1981).