20th September 2021

The process of process serving

Process serving is the process by which documents are professionally sent or personally delivered by an independent party (known as a process server) to a recipient.

Process serving in the UK is typically used when the court or serving party requires proof that the person was served their documents, as in some cases individuals deny receiving them, or there is a critical deadline for when the documents must be received.

A process server is the person that serves the documents; they have knowledge of legislative regulations including Civil Procedure Rules and Insolvency matters. They should have a good understanding of the rules of process serving and conduct their work with discretion and speed, according to proposed timeframes and given instructions. If a document has not been served correctly, it can cause problems when the case is taken to court and may even result in the case being thrown out by the presiding judge.

There is currently no requirement for a process server to have any form of recognised qualifications or licence, and it is therefore important any instructing client ensures their process servers have the knowledge required to complete the task in accordance with the requirements of the court.

Why is process serving needed?

The role of a process server is to provide written proof – in the form of a witness statement or affidavit – which can be presented to the court confirming service. It gives the date and time of service, the location, the documents served and any other information which may be relevant to the case. If such paperwork is merely sent in the post, there is no guarantee it will be received, and the client has no proof of it either.

Typically, served paperwork includes:

  • Statutory Demands and Bankruptcy / Winding Up Petitions
  • Monetary Claim Forms and Orders which enforce County Court Judgements (CCJ’s) such as Orders to Attend Court
  • Claim Forms for the possession of property or land, either for squatters or tenants
  • Witness Summons
  • Non-Molestation and Injunction Orders
  • Land and Property Notices such as Notice to Determine Lease, or Break Notices
  • Divorce Petitions.

For example, when serving in insolvency matters, it is imperative to be able to prove the respondent has received all the paperwork leading up to the insolvency, to give them the opportunity to respond and deal with the matter. If they state they did not receive it, and you cannot prove they did, the matter may not be able to progress.

How does process serving work?

Work is usually instructed by solicitors, specialist law firms or in-house legal departments but can also come from private clients. There are different service rules for different types of paperwork, although many documents are served under the ‘Civil Procedure Rules’ of the Ministry of Justice within the UK. For instance, service of bankruptcy is dealt with under the Insolvency Rules, and the Practice Directions to those rules specify certain acceptable methods to be able to serve the documents.

Take the example of a Statutory Demand on an individual, which is a final demand for payment. This can be served by letterbox, providing you can demonstrate that the person had the opportunity to receive the Demand personally and chose not to. This would be done by the process server sending an appointment letter nominating a set date and time of return to the address, as well as giving them the opportunity to meet with them, advising if they fail to attend that appointment they will be served by letterbox. However, if the person fails to deal with the Demand, and it progresses to a Bankruptcy Petition, there is no provision within the service rules for service of this by letterbox, and an application needs to be made to the judge for an Order allowing service by letterbox to take place.

In short, some papers can be served by ‘Substituted Service’ such as by letterbox or email, and some must be given in-person to the individual being served. Process servers have had to make adjustments due to Covid-19, avoiding direct contact by making use of letterboxes and electronic services.

If papers have to be served in-person, as in the case of a Non-molestation Order, they could be left at a person’s feet or on a table in front of them to avoid hand-to-hand contact. A Non-Molestation Order prevents a person from doing certain things against another person, such as contacting them or going near their house. There may be a ‘Penal Notice’ attached to the Order, which means if they breach the Order, it would be a criminal offence that they could be arrested for. It is therefore imperative to know exactly when individuals are served, as breaching the Order after service could lead to criminal charges.

While the physical process of serving documents seems straightforward, every case presents its challenges. Individuals may get tip offs that they are going to be served papers and attempt to avoid it, so investigative skills are important to ensure the service is carried out. In some cases, there is physical violence against process servers due to them delivering paperwork that is detrimental to the receiver who might resist being served. In other cases, clients may require service of multiple people across the country at the same time, and process servers must liaise to ensure that the papers are served accordingly.

Once served, the process server provides a Certificate, Statement of Service, or Sworn Affidavit confirming the time and date the documents were served, for reference by the court at the hearing.

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.

Contact the team at process.serving@esarisk.com or on +44 (0)843 515 8686 option 2.

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