HOW TO SERVE LEGAL PAPERS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

This article will provide guidance regarding the United Kingdom Process Service.  The Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters is the most prevalent way of serving US proceedings on defendants in the United Kingdom (Hague Service Convention). The Hague Service Convention was ratified on February 10th, 1969, by the United States and the United Kingdom.

When a United Kingdom Process Service document has to be served in a signatory nation, it must meet certain criteria to be accepted being [A.] the address of the organization or person to be served, [B.] the document’s legal or extralegal character, and [C.] the document’s civil or commercial nature. No service will be made under the Hague Service Convention if the defendant’s address is unknown. Such cases need a reference to FCPR rule 4(f)(2), which lays out the method for UK Process Service when no international treaty or similar domestic service rules apply.

A summons and complaint from the United States may be served in England and Wales under the appropriate clause which regulates the service of papers from foreign courts or tribunals in England and Wales.

THE HAGUE CONVENTION ON THE INTERNATIONAL SERVICE OF PROCESS

The Central Authority for the United Kingdom, a senior master at London’s High Court of Justice, is most often used for US proceedings to be served in England and Wales.  To begin the United Kingdom Process Service, an American official or judge must fill out and sign the Letter of Request and send it to the United Kingdom Central Authority. The Letter of Request must also include the US summons and complaint, both of which must be attached to the Letter of Request (and any translations into English that are required). It is necessary to submit a duplicate of the Letter of Request and all supporting documents. 

The Senior Master (as the UK Central Authority) will direct a judicial officer or agent to serve the summons and complaint on the UK defendant in accordance with the Letter of Request or in a manner permitted by the CPR (e.g. via a local agent). Once United Kingdom Process Service is completed, the United Kingdom Central Authority will complete the mandated ‘certificate’ in the prescribed form, 

There is no time limit specified in the Hague Service Convention, although plaintiffs should be informed that service might take many months.  Article 10 of the Hague Service Convention stipulates that parties to overseas litigation in a country that is a party to the convention may likewise be served in the United Kingdom. State of origin authorities, officials, or other competent individuals may serve court papers directly via the State of destination’s judicial officials or other competent persons if the State of destination does not object.’

Pursuant to Article 5(3) of the Convention United Kingdom will require the UK Process Service documents to be written in, or translated into, the English language. As of 1 January 1979, no charge is made for UK Process Service in normal circumstances. However, if the request is for United Kingdom Process Service by a particular method, which incurs extra costs, or in other exceptional circumstances, actual costs of service will be reclaimed. This applies only to England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and not to those overseas territories for whose international relations the United Kingdom is responsible.

A Consular Fee must be paid to the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) if they need to serve papers via diplomatic channels. To register,  the individual has to pay £150. 

The papers will be sent to the FCDO in London after they have been processed by FPS. It may take the FCDO up to ten business days to process said files. Afterward, the papers will be forwarded to the British Embassy or High Commission. For this to happen, one needs to allocate at least two weeks of travel time. When the British Embassy or High Commission receives the papers, they will be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the host nation, if required. 

HOW ARE PAPERS SERVED WITHIN THE UNITED KINGDOM

Letters to the defendant should be sent outlining the claim, which should include a brief statement of the facts, a request for compensation, and how that compensation is determined. Within fourteen days in an uncomplicated matter and no more than three months in a severely difficult situation, the receiver of the letter must answer the UK Process Service. Replying to a claim requires stating whether or not the claim is accepted and, if not, why, as well as stating whether or not the defendant is filing a counterclaim and giving specifics of any counterclaim.

United Kingdom Process Service documents that are pertinent to the problems at hand should be made available by both parties. As a result, courts will consider non-compliance with the Practice Direction and Pre-Action Protocols when issuing management instructions and imposing cost orders. Forms for filing claims include the names of the parties involved, UK Process Service information on the claim, and its value. The value of the claim determines the amount of the court fee. Professional users making claims in the Business and Property Courts, where most substantial business claims must be lodged, must utilize the court’s online electronic filing system. As soon as the claim form has been issued and served, both parties have four months to respond to it, or six months if the defendant is out of the jurisdiction.

Claimants also need to produce particulars of the claim, which lay out the argument and the facts relied on. Claim particulars are generally required to be either included in the claim form or served with the claim form. The defendant must serve particulars of the claim within twenty-eight days after filing an acceptance of service form expressing an intention to defend the claim if they are not served with the claim form. There must be a declaration of truth signed by the signatory of the particulars of the claim stating their belief in the document’s contents. In addition to postal and personal United Kingdom Process Service, the claim form may be served within the jurisdiction.

If the defendant has not already done so, he has fourteen days to submit an acknowledgment of service form or defense after being served with the claim’s particulars. To submit a defense, a defendant must file an acknowledgment of service form no later than twenty-eight days after the claim was served. Within fourteen days of receiving the claim’s particulars, a defense must be served if the defendant does not submit a form of service. After serving the claim form, the defendant has fourteen days to submit an acknowledgment of service form in the Commercial Court and twenty-eight days to file a response. Plaintiffs may often seek judgment by default if the defendant fails to submit an acknowledgment of service form or defense within the time constraints.

CROSS BORDER DISPUTES

The choice of English law as the controlling law in a contract will be respected by English courts.

However, under the Rome Convention on the Law Applicable to Contractual Obligations (1980/934/EEC) and its successor Rome I Regulation (593/2008), there are some scenarios where the choice of law may be substituted or amended. The EU’s jurisdiction regulations (Recast Brussels Regulation (1215/2012)) no longer apply in England and Wales as of January 1, 2021.  The English courts typically adhere to a contract’s stated choice of jurisdiction. This is especially true if the parties have explicitly agreed that the courts of a certain nation have exclusive jurisdiction.

Cases that are covered by the Hague Choice of Court Convention will have to see whether the defendant may be served inside or outside of the jurisdiction in order to determine if the English courts can hear them. 

This convention provides effect to exclusive choice-of-court agreements in favor of contracting states only if those nations’ laws make them null and unlawful under the Hague Choice of Court Agreement (meaning substantial invalidity on grounds such as fraud, duress, or lack of capacity. 

No matter what happens, the papers to be served will be sent by the English court to the county court bailiff in the area where the defendant’s residence is for service. The defendant will be served, and documentation of service will be provided by the bailiff.

The Hague Service Convention permits the United Kingdom Process Service “directly” if the state of destination does not object to it by parties in a foreign dispute in a country that is a party to that convention. There is no objection from the UK to direct postal service (Article 10(a), Hague Convention on the International Service of Process) or direct service via the judicial officers, authorities, or other competent individuals of the United Kingdom. 

The Central or additional authorities, as well as judicial, consular, and diplomatic personnel from other Hague Service Convention nations, will only receive papers for United Kingdom Process Service via proper channels in the UK. Anyone in another Hague Service Convention contracting state interested in a court process (including their lawyer) may still be served in the UK “directly” via a “competent person” other than a judicial officer or official, according to the UK (for example, a solicitor).

The Senior Master at the Foreign Process Section performs service in accordance with the Hague Service Convention, which takes significantly longer but is considered more dependable and defendable than the techniques of direct service. The foreign court must issue a letter of request to the English court in order to get evidence from a witness in England and Wales who refuses to testify willingly. The Hague Convention of 1970 (Hague Evidence Convention). The legislation of the asking court and the Hague Evidence Convention shall regulate the process for sending a letter of request in cases before courts in Hague Evidence Convention contracting nations (for example, the United States and all EU member states save Austria, Belgium, and Ireland).

Depending on where the decision was issued, different enforcement regimes apply in the English courts when it comes to foreign judgments. There has been an increase in complexity as a result.

Many nations, including Singapore, Nigeria, Kenya, the Cayman Islands, and the British Virgin Islands, as well as Malaysia and New Zealand are covered by the Administration of Justice Act 1920. There are reciprocal enforcement provisions for foreign judgments under the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act of 1933 in nations including Australia, Canada, India, Pakistan, and the Isle of Man. Other nations, notably Israel, and European decisions from jurisdictions where the subject matter is outside the regular EU system are also covered by the previous act.

OUR PROCESS

Documents can be faxed at (800) 296-0115, emailed ps@undisputedlegal.com, or uploaded to our website. We do require prepayment and accept all major credit and debit cards. Once payment is processed, your sales receipt is immediately emailed for your records.

Drop-offs must call and make an appointment first to be added to building security to permit access to our office. Documents for service must be in a sealed envelope with payment in the form of a money order or attorney check (WE DO NOT ACCEPT CASH) payable to UNDISPUTED LEGAL INC.; All documents will be received by our receptionist.

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New Jersey: (201) 630-0114 – 101 Hudson Street, 21 Floor, Jersey City, New Jersey 07302
Washington DC: (202) 655-4450 – 2200 Pennsylvania Avenue, 4 Fl East, Washington DC 20037

for assistance serving legal papers in the United Kingdom

Simply pick up the phone and call (212) 203-8001 or click the service you want to purchase.   Our dedicated team of professionals is ready to assist you. We can handle all your process service needs; no job is too small or too large!

Contact us for more information about our process serving agency. We are ready to provide New York City service of process to all our clients globally from our offices in New York, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington D.C.

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Sources

1. Part 6 of the English Civil Procedure Requirements 1998 contains the local service rules that must be followed whenever legal papers are served in the United Kingdom (CPR).

2. Central Authority:

The Senior Master, Royal Courts of Justice

Contact details:

Address: For the attention of the Foreign Process Section

Room E16

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

LONDON WC2A 2LL

Telephone:0207 947 7772 (option 2).  

E-mail: foreignprocess.rcj@justice.gov.uk

General website: Ministry of Justice: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ministry-of-justice

3. Alternate ways of service are available in accordance with the Hague Service Convention.  International postal routes, direct service via an agent in the target state, diplomatic or consular channels, and service under local norms are all options for delivery.

4.

5. England and Wales:

The Senior Master of the Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

London WC2A 2LL

Switchboard: +44 207 947 6000

Tel: +44 207 947 7772 (option 2)

Website: Ministry of Justice 

Scotland:

Scottish Government Justice Directorate

Central Authority & International Law Team

St. Andrew’s House (GW15)

Edinburgh EH1 3DG

Scotland, UK

E-mail: serviceofdocuments@gov.scot or Angela.Lindsay@gov.scot

Tel.: +44 131 244 4829

Northern Ireland:

The Master (Queen’s Bench and Appeals)

Royal Courts of Justice

Chichester Street

Belfast BT1 3JF

Tel: +44 28 9072 4639

Website: Department of Justice NI

Personal service on individuals and postal service on registered offices of companies. If this fails by first class post. 

England and Wales

Scotland

Northern Ireland

6. Scotland: Timeline. within 3 months

For Scotland only:

Requests for service within Scotland of documents in civil and commercial matters can be made directly to sheriff officers and messengers-at-arms (judicial officers). 

This is the preferred method of service in Scotland. The Society of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers (smaso.org.uk)

7. To pay with a credit or debit card: the Service of Process payment line at 020 7008 4126.

8. Allow ten working days for this to happen. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the host nation will arrange for local service.

9. Details of a claim should include:

The claimant’s supporting evidence.

Defendant’s claim, including the causes of action he or she cites.

Specifics of any interest-related claim.

Specifics of the alleged wrongdoing.

The rest of the evidence supports the allegation.

10. Only contracts entered into before 31 December 2020 will be subject to Rome I and the Rome Convention on a reciprocal basis after Brexit, which ends on 31 December 2020. While EU law has been incorporated into UK law as retained EU law, Rome I and the Rome Convention remain in effect on a domestic level in the UK (UK Rome I).

Rome I/UK Rome I allows the choice of law to be replaced or amended in the following cases:

The parties’ decision will not affect the implementation of laws of other countries that cannot be derogated from by agreement (Article 3(3)).

11. According to CPR 6 (Section IV), “jurisdictional gateways” under CPR 6 (Section IV), it must be shown that the subject matter has a sufficient connection to the jurisdiction of England and Wales in accordance with one of the “jurisdictional gateways” (for example, it relates to a contract that was made in the jurisdiction or is governed by English law, or relates to property in the jurisdiction).

12. The judge who issued the letter of request has signed the document.  The Senior Master ordinarily makes an order without holding a hearing when an application is submitted without prior notice.  Execution of a decision obtained in another country

13. US process may be served on foreign people and organizations that do not have a physical presence in the United States under Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP).

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