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 England and Wales.[1][2] The offence is infrequently charged.[3] As a common law offence, it is triable only on indictment and can be punished by an unlimited fine, imprisonment, 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.

References[edit]