MY wife's late father's ashes have been buried at Waltonwrays, Skipton, for more than 25 years.

When mum passed away recently the family decided we would like to exhume dad's, and then scatter both parent's ashes together at one of their favourite places.

Quite simple you might think, but the Funeral Directors have told us apparently that Craven District Council will charge in the region of £500 for this service,

I believe that the area of the cemetery is full, so one may think we would be encouraged to vacate plots.

What is the punishment for grave robbery - by CDC not the public? Talk about cashing in on grief.

John Cox



In response, a spokesperson for Craven District Council said: "We are sorry for the bereavements suffered by Mr Cox and his family and we understand that this must be a difficult time for them.

We have written to Mr Cox explaining in detail why there is a cost for exhumation of ashes.

Exhumation is not something that can be done lightly – it is a criminal offence to disturb human remains, including ashes, without a direct licence from the Ministry of Justice.

Obtaining this licence is a complex matter and we have to follow stringent rules and regulations, including obtaining agreement from all next of kin, and authorisation from the grave owner.

In this case the ownership needs to be transferred, which adds an additional cost.

Legally the exhumation must be carried out very early in the morning, so that it cannot be witnessed by any member of the public.

All of this takes a considerable amount of officer time and can involve complex administration duties as well as conducting the actual exhumation, which needs to be done by two officers, with upmost respect and care. There may also be the need for the ashes to be subsequently treated, to ensure they can then be scattered.

It is not council policy to reuse graves. We would not consider this decent and correct as many families would be most upset to learn that the grave they have used to permanently lay their loved one to rest has been used before.

It is very rare for a family to make the decision to exhume remains, and we have to have very stringent procedures in place to ensure we are following the wishes of all family members and that we are doing something legally, correctly and with dignity."