Dead Body Offences

Dead Body Offences

Dead body offences are outlined in section 182 of the Criminal Code.

A person commits a dead body offence when they neglect to perform their legal duty to bury a dead human body or human remains, or when they interfere in an improper, indecent, or undignified way with a dead human body or human remains.

Examples

Person A has sex with their spouse’s dead body.

Person B throws their stillborn child into a dumpster behind a fast-food restaurant.

Person C digs up person D’s grave and attempts to cook and eat their remains.

Cases

R. v. Pearce, 2014 ONCJ 554

In R. v. Pearce, the accused was charged with a dead body offence when he hit a skateboarder with his pickup truck, causing the skateboarder to die instantly and their body to fly into the back of his truck. Upon discovering the body, the accused dumped it at a skatepark.

R. v. Bernard, 2021 ONCJ 78

In R. v. Bernard, the accused was charged with a dead body offence for leaving her spouse’s dead body on the toilet he had died on for four years awaiting a resurrection ceremony.

v. Mearow, 2015 ONSC 7149

In R. v. Mearow, three accused were charged with a dead body offence when they used power tools to dismember the body of a party guest who had become wounded during a fight. They removed the body’s head, hands, and feet in the washroom and then disposed of the body parts in a nearby creek.

Offence Specific Defence(s)

Animal’s Body

Where the body or remains in question are not human but are of an animal, the person will not have completed a dead body offence.

Desecration of the Gravesite

Where the person only destroys a gravesite and not the actual human remains of the person contained within that grave, they may not have completed a dead body offence.

For example, if person A destroys person B’s tombstone, but does not dig up or interfere in any way with person B’s remains located underneath that tombstone, person A will may have completed a dead body offence.

Not Improper, Indecent, or Undignified Interference

Where the interference with the human remains or dead body is not improper, indecent, or undignified, the person interfering may not have completed a dead body offence. For example, if person A operates a crematorium and is burning person B’s dead body as part of the cremation process, person A may not have completed a dead body offence.