Under the CPR rules I need to effect personal service. Is this being relaxed due to coronavirus (COVID-19)? What happens if I cannot serve on the defendant personally?

Under the CPR rules I need to effect personal service. Is this being relaxed due to coronavirus (COVID-19)? What happens if I cannot serve on the defendant personally?

Produced in partnership with Sarah Clarke of Hardwicke Chambers

At the time of publishing, the Master of the Rolls has issued three updates (numbers 116–118) which modify provisions of the CPR to reflect the impact of COVID–19, introducing three new practice directions, CPR PD 51Y, CPR PD 51Z and CPR PD 51ZA. None of these practice directions have modified any existing requirements in the CPR for personal service so it is safest to assume that all requirements for personal service continue as before.

In many cases, provisions which require mandatory personal service will themselves permit the court to make exceptions to that rule, see for example the power to order substituted service of a bankruptcy petition or the power under CPR 81.24 to dispense with personal service in committal proceedings.

In additional to those specific exceptions, CPR 6.15, confers a general power on the court to make a prospective or retrospective order for service be effected by an alternative method. This could in, appropriate circumstances, allow personal service to be avoided. The evidence in support of an application under CPR 6.15 must set out the information prescribed in CPR PD 6A paras 9.1 and 9.2, which includes an explanation of the reason alternative service is required. The COVID–19 restrictions may not in themselves be sufficient justification for alternative service under CPR 6.15 because the COVID–19 restrictions do not appear to be preventing personal service being effected in all cases, there are professional process servers who are advertising their ability to continuing to serve proceedings within the COVID–19 restrictions.

For further reading, see Practice Notes:

• Service of the claim form—personal service (CPR 6.5)

• Alternative service

• Alternative service—making an application

 

 

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