Exhumations are very rarely carried out and require a Sheriff’s warrant.  The Sheriff has to be satisfied that the request is justifiable before a warrant may be granted.

An Environmental Health Officer must be present at the exhumation to supervise the event to ensure that respect for the deceased person is maintained and that public health is protected. 

Exhumations of human remains

The need to exhume is not a common occurrence. However, when exhumation is required it must be done with dignity and respect and with all of the necessary legal licences and documentation.   It is unlawful to disturb any human remains (including cremated remains) without permission.  

Below are three categories of legal exhumation:
  • under a Ministry of Justice licence;
  • ecclesiastical faculty (where remains are exhumed from consecrated ground);
  • a coroner's order.  
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