In NPV v QEL and another, a recent High Court case regarding the misuse of private information and harassment, the court granted an interim injunction against 2 defendants. The order allowed the injunction application and order to be served on the second defendant by text message.
The rules for service are contained within Part 6 of the Civil Procedure Rules and the accompanying Practice Directions. Ordinarily either the court or the claimant or their solicitor will serve the claim form on the defendant by first class post, document exchange or personal service. Fax or e-mail can be used for service if the parties consent to this. Otherwise an application can be made to the court requesting service by an alternative method.
Although Practice Direction 6A specifically provides for alternative service within the UK by way of text messaging, such orders for alternative service remain somewhat rare. In NPV v QEL the second defendant’s identity was unknown and the only contact information available to the claimant was their mobile phone number.
The claimant had arranged to meet with the second defendant, on the premise of paying the second defendant a sum of money, with the true intention to serve the second defendant with the injunction and accompanying papers. The judge ordered that, should this method of service prove to be ineffective then the second defendant could instead be served the papers by text message, being “the only practical alternative means presently available to the claimant”.
Although it is anticipated that service of documents by way of text message will remain the exception, this case demonstrates that the court may permit such methods of alternative service to be pragmatic and fair – otherwise there is a very real risk that unknown defendants may hide behind their anonymity.