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An exhumation is where a person's remains are retrieved from a place of burial, usually for the purpose of further examination.
Occasionally the State Coroner may need to authorise an exhumation if they believe it is necessary for the investigation of a death and it is appropriate to do so.
Advising senior next of kin
If the State Coroner intends to do this, a notice of intention to exhume must be given to the 'senior next of kin'.
In the notice, the senior next of kin will be advised they can provide suggestions as to how and whether the proposed exhumation should be conducted.
The authorisation will not take effect until 48 hours after the senior next of kin has been notified.
The senior next of kin can appeal to the Supreme Court against the authorisation.
You may wish to seek legal advice before lodging an appeal.
Advising cemeteries and land owners
The State Coroner must also give notice of their intention to authorise an exhumation to the cemetery trust if the person is interred in a public cemetery or to the owner of the land if the person is not interred in a public cemetery.
The State Coroner must take into account the suggestions made by the senior next of kin or any other person who provides written notice about the proposed exhumation.
The suggestions must be in writing and filed with the court by a time specified by the State Coroner. You will be advised of this time in the notice of intention to exhume.
When notice is not required
The State Coroner is not required to give notice if there is reasonable grounds to believe that giving such a notice would result in:
- the escape of an offender or accomplice
- the fabrication or destruction of evidence; or that
- the exhumation is urgent and should not be delayed: or
- giving notice is impossible.
Requesting an exhumation
Any person may apply to the State Coroner for an exhumation to be authorised.
An application can be made by filling out the Application for Exhumation Form (form 20) and sending it to:
Coroners Court of Victoria
65 Kavanagh Street
Southbank, VIC 3006
Fax: 1300 546 989
If the State Coroner intends to refuse the application, you will be advised without delay.