Preventing the lawful burial of a body

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Prevention of the lawful and decent burial of a dead body is an offence under the common law of the United Kingdom.[1][2] The offence is infrequently charged.[3] As a common law offence, it is trialable only on indictment and can be punished by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.

Examples of conduct amounting to the offence include detaining a body, for instance upon a claim for fees or a debt, refusing to deliver it to the executors for burial, or when entrusted with it for burial selling for dissection. It is a separate common law offence to dispose of a dead body with intent to obstruct or prevent a coroner's inquest.[4]

Burning a body instead of burying it was not illegal.[4] It is now an offence to burn a body otherwise than in an approved crematorium.[5]

Disposing of the dead body of a child with intent to conceal the birth of that child (regardless as to when he or she died) is an offence under section 60 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.[6]

Recent cases[edit]

Hans Kristian Rausing, heir to Hans Rausing who owns the multinational food packaging and processing company Tetra Pak, was charged with the offence of preventing the lawful and decent burial of a body on 17 July 2012 following the discovery of the corpse of his wife, Eva Rausing.[7] He received a suspended sentence of imprisonment.

Nathan Matthews and his girlfriend, Shauna Hoare were also charged with this offence after murdering Becky Watts.


  1. ^ Halsbury's Laws of England, volume 26: "Criminal Law", paragraph 688 (5th edition)
  2. ^ "Hans Rausing charged with highly unusual offence" by Daniel Hoadley, The Guardian, Wednesday 18 July 2012
  3. ^ Common Law Offences Charged and Reaching a first hearing in Magistrates' Courts, Crown Prosecution Service
  4. ^ a b Halsbury's Laws of England, volume 24: "Cremation and Burial", paragraph 1104 (5th edition)
  5. ^ regulation 13, Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008
  6. ^ section 60, Offences Against the Person Act 1861
  7. ^ "Eva Rausing death: Husband charged with burial delay". BBC News. Retrieved 17 July 2012.