30th September 2021

Did Prince Andrew see chalk dust?

For most people a good serve is seeing the ball on the white line; for a process server it is seeing the whites of the addressee’s eyes.

On 26th August 2021, legal papers were attempted to be served upon Prince Andrew, Duke of York, by a process server. The case began when Virginia Giuffre took legal action against the prince for an alleged sexual assault when she was a teenager. However, the process server was turned away and the papers were not accepted on behalf of Prince Andrew, who has previously denied the allegations against him.

Since “Prince Andrew’s security had been told not to allow anyone onto the property to serve court documents”, the papers could not be served on him in person. Instead, upon returning to the address for a second time, the process server left the documents with a police officer at the main gates of Prince Andrew’s residence, The Royal Lodge.

Was this good service?

BBC News has stated claims from the prince’s legal team that, since the legal proceedings are to take place in New York, the British legal procedures “require that a valid request for assistance from UK court officials must come from a judicial officer in the US”.

Prince Andrew was also served by Mrs Giuffre’s English solicitors via Royal Mail, which complies with Rule 6.3 (1) (b) of the Civil Procedure Rules for England and Wales, as long as the papers are sent to arrive on the next business day. However, this too becomes complicated if going by the US federal court rules which require service by mail to be evidenced by a signed receipt.

Eventually, Prince Andrew conceded that he had been served with the papers via his US attorneys.

My colleague, Nicci Ashby, Litigation Support Consultant, has commented that when serving evasive defendants, process servers must attempt by all means possible, and within reason, to effect service. Using companies like Royal Mail to deliver the documents is not ideal, as it is then difficult to prove that the defendant has actually received them. However, the UK courts will accept this as good service in certain circumstances.

She recommends to “stay on the side of caution and use experienced process servers, as they are independent, impartial and provide specific evidence to the courts detailing the method of service.”

Nicci goes further to say that in Prince Andrew’s case, only the judge can decide if it was ‘good service’.

“It is slightly complicated, because the paperwork was issued internationally and is required to be served in accordance with local laws, which can be different from the country of issue. Even in the UK, there are different rules of service concerning different types of documents and, in each case, it is important for the process server to understand which procedures are relevant for the documents.”

So, what is a process server?

A process server is an individual who is instructed to serve documents, usually court papers such as claims, petitions and injunctions. Their clients are usually legal professionals, but documents can be drawn up by lay clients, too.

The ultimate role of the process server is to personally serve the documents upon the defendant(s) and thereafter evidence all that they have done in order for the courts to accept that service has been effected. A judge may need this evidence to allow proceedings to commence and may call the process server as a witness if service is disputed. In difficult circumstances where personal service has not been effected, after reading the evidence, a judge may make an order to allow service by other means, or might accept that all reasonable efforts have been made and that the proceedings can continue.

In some cases, judges can use their discretion to enable application for other forms of service, such as via Facebook or WhatsApp, or by leaving documents at the defendant’s last known address.

When serving high-profile people, such as Prince Andrew, it’s unlikely a process server will be able to hand over the paperwork in-person, due to tight security measures placed around these individuals. The process server’s role is to attempt to serve the documents by whatever legal means possible, and to inform the defendant of the nature and basic contents of the documents.

When defendants try to evade service, investigations including covert surveillance may be used to try to catch them off guard.

What to do when you need a process server

When looking to instruct a process server, we recommend the following:

  • As process serving is not a regulated activity, it is better that you instruct a firm that is a member of a recognised trade association such as the Association of British Investigators (ABI) or the World Association of Detectives (WAD).
  • In certain countries, only court staff and court-appointed bailiffs can serve documents, so make sure you check the relevant laws within that jurisdiction when attempting to serve documents abroad.
  • Always provide the process server with a photograph or good description of the defendant – something you should be able to obtain from the claimant.
  • Provide the process server with all contact details you have for the defendant.
  • Inform the process server if the defendant has a history of violence and has access to firearms or vicious animals. Personally, I’ve had death threats made against me and encountered violent attacks by both people and animals while effecting personal service of documents. Good process servers will, at times, have to put themselves in difficult situations and need to be prepared to face aggressive behaviour.
  • Only experienced firms should be instructed to conduct the service, as process serving is a vital part of the legal process. At ESA Risk, our process serving teams are led by professionals with decades of experience, legal sector qualifications and industry body memberships.

Instruct ESA Risk today

If you’re looking for an experienced company to reliably serve documents, look no further than ESA Risk. Our extensive network of process servers covers the whole of the UK (as well as overseas locations).

Whether you require us to serve relatively straightforward, standard documents or to organise complex time-synchronised, multi-location services, either in the UK or overseas, we’ll work with you to understand your specific requirements and tailor our services and fees accordingly.

Need to confirm an address before sending documents? We also provide tracing services, ensuring you serve the right people in the right place at the right time.

Email us at process.serving@esarisk.com, or call us on +44 (0)843 515 8686.

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