Legacy Independent Funeral Directors: Police probe prompts calls for tighter regulation

Legacy Independent Funeral Directors
Police launched an investigation into Legacy Independent Funeral Directors after concerns were raised with Humberside Police. Credit: PA

A police investigation into a funerals business in East Yorkshire has raised questions about the regulation of the industry.

Legacy Independent Funeral Directors, based in Hull, is at the centre of an inquiry into the storage and care of bodies after concerns were raised with Humberside Police on 6 March.

After the company's three premises were cordoned off police removed 35 bodies, as well as a quantity of ashes.

Two people have been arrested. More than 1,000 calls have been made to a special hotline set up by investigators.

What police have called a "horrific incident" has now led to calls for the industry to be more carefully scrutinised.

Can anyone become a funeral director?

One of the business's premises has been boarded up. Credit: MEN Media

Effectively, yes. There is no formal route into the industry and no mandatory qualifications.

According to the government's website: "You can get into this job by doing an apprenticeship or working your way up."

GCSEs, including English and maths, may help and there are professional qualifications, including an NVQ in funeral service and operations.

Entry level pay is around £19,000, rising to £27,000 and beyond with experience.

Do you need a licence?

No. The investigation into Legacy Independent Funeral Directors has exposed what many people see as a flaw in maintaining standards the industry.

Hull West and Hessle MP Emma Hardy said: "Many people were shocked when the investigation started into the funeral home that regulations don't exist. Nothing is statutory and nothing is compulsory.

  • MP Emma Hardy wants to see statutory regulation of the industry

"I think this is a major gap in our system of regulation, I think it's something that is really important to reassure the community and reassure people who are in the most vulnerable stages of bereavement.

"Of course the vast majority [of funeral directors] are decent people doing a good job but if we had that system of regulation it gives that peace of mind."

How are funeral directors currently regulated?

There are two professional bodies for the industry: the National Association of Funeral Directors and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors.

According to the NAFD, which has existed for 120 years, its role is to provide "advice, advocacy, education and support to help them meet the highest professional standards".

But membership is entirely voluntary. Legacy Independent Funeral Directors became a member in 2011 but the NAFD said the company gave up its membership in 2021.

Chief executive Andrew Judd said: "At the moment, most people think that to trade as a funeral director you have to be qualified, many think you have to be licensed and many think that there is a statutory standard.

"The reality is that there isn't and we are campaigning to allow the trade associations within the sector to have the support of a statutory framework to ensure that the high standards and oversight that our members currently undergo become commonplace.

"We want to make sure that people are reassured that funeral directors cannot trade unless they subscribe to an agreed and level playing field in terms of standards and care."

What should you do if you need a funeral director?

The NAFD says bereaved families should do their research, choosing businesses which are members of a credible trade association.

Mr Judd said: "What we would encourage is visit your funeral director, meet them, meet the team who are going to caring for your loved one and, if you want to and if you're interested, you should ask to see their back-of-house facilities, to see where your loved one will be stored and cared for."

Word-of-mouth recommendations are often the best examples to rely on, he said.

"Funeral directors have nothing to hide," Mr Judd added.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.