Can You Serve Court Papers Via Social Media In The UK?
If you think that legal documents like court summons, divorce papers, or custody agreements can only be served by hand or by snail mail in the UK, think again.
Back in 2011, a landmark ruling in the English High Court made it legal in Great Britain for court papers to be served via social media. While the practice had been in place in several countries around the world, including Australia and New Zealand, it wasn’t a regular practice in UK at the time. Two years prior, the first case of its kind had landed in the UK. Mr. Justice Lewison permitted that an injunction be served on Twitter – the social media platform where users post short news like ‘tweets’. The party looking to serve the court papers did not know the defendant’s real name or where to find them. But they did know his Twitter-handle. Mr. Justice Lewison ruled that due to these unusual circumstances, the injunction could be served over Twitter.
Since this case, it hasn’t been a routine practice for judges in the UK or Wales to allow court papers to be served on social media but that is likely to change in the future.
How To Serve Court Papers Via Social Media
Court papers of any kind should only be served on social media if no other options are available. Social media is usually used if the real name of a person isn’t known by the defendant, or if they have no mailing address or workplace for the defendant. As with other alternative service options, you’ll need to prove to the court that you (or a professional process server) has tried serving the documents in every way possible.
If you have tried mailing the court papers or having them served at the recipient’s workplace by a process server and both options have failed. Or, if you never had an address or workplace name for the recipient, you can ask the courts for permission to serve the papers via social media. This is a legal option, but is permitted on a case-by-case basis.
Facebook Is The Number One
Regarding the best platform for serving court documents, it is likely to be Facebook. This social media platform is the most widely used in the UK and also collects a huge amount of data from users. It is often possible to find a phone number and email address attached to a personal profile at the very least. So there is no serious challenge as to the owner of the profile itself. It also has an instant messaging facility that can provide other useful insights, such as when the user was last online and whether or not they have read an incoming message. If a user is not privacy savvy, then someone skilled in online investigations could uncover a promising trail to the respondent.
A Process Server Can Help
Whether you are planning to serve court papers on social media, by snail mail, or in person, it helps to hire a process server. Serving court documents can be tough. The recipient may not wish to be found, or could have moved away since you last saw them. Tracking them down and serving the papers in a timely manner is a must, or else you’ll risk delaying your court hearings.
To ensure that your court papers are served correctly and on time, a process server will go to great lengths to track down your recipient. If an address or workplace isn’t known, they’ll help you use social media to ensure that your documents are served. In fact, social media is likely to be part of their research process when they are attempting to serve the documents in person. It’s surprising how many respondents can give away their location by an inadvertent ‘check in’.
The help of a process server can be the difference between getting the justice or compensation you deserve or getting your case dismissed by a judge.
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*Our content is not designed to constitute legal advice. If you require legal advice we always recommend contacting a qualified legal professional. We are happy to provide recommendations*