Service of Process in the United Kingdom

Service of Process in the United KingdomThe United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) was an original signatory to the Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters, also called the Hague Service Convention, signed on December 10, 1965. The treaty entered into force for the UK on February 10, 1969.

(For general background on processes and the methods of service available under the Hague Service Convention, please click here.)

US attorneys seeking service in the United Kingdom would be wise to familiarize themselves with the mandatory character of the Convention as set forth in the US Supreme Court case Volkswagenwerk A.G. v. Schlunk, 486 US 694 (1988).

Canadian attorneys should consult provincial precedent — Canadian courts take a more nuanced view of the Convention, but effectively reach the same conclusion: its limitations must be observed.  Regardless of forum court requirements, the service rules of the receiving country must be observed, or enforcement of a judgment may become impossible.

LLS has extensive experience effecting Hague service in the United Kingdom; call us at 1-800-755-5775 to discuss options.

Challenges Unique to
Service of Process in the UK

Service in the UK is complicated by the Kingdom’s varied member countries. Although united under one crown, the UK is comprised of distinct political units which are progressively gaining autonomy.

ENGLAND & WALES

England flag service of process wales flag

Note that certain types of substituted Hague service and mailbox service may be routinely effected under foreign law, but have adverse Due Process implications in US jurisdictions. Service in England and Wales is unique; it appears simple, but is fraught with pitfalls.

For example, the UK initially made a confusing declaration to the Treaty seemingly opposed to service pursuant to Articles 10(b) and (c), but later clarified the declaration to permit service under Article 10 by a “competent person.” Note that English and Welsh process servers are not “competent persons” entitled to serve process under the Hague Convention. Therefore, service directly via a British process server may be easily quashed in the US.

LLS’ solicitor partners can effect service much more quickly than through direct requests to the Central Authority.

SCOTLAND

scotland flag service of process

Scots law is not technically a common law system, although the English common law looms large in its heritage, especially in criminal matters. As to civil legal processes, however, the Scottish system is more a hybrid of civil and common law traditions.

As such, Article 10(b) of the Convention is not a practical avenue for service under Scots law; service in Scotland must be undertaken by a sheriff or messenger at arms, in a similar fashion to continental bailiffs.

LLS maintains relationships with various messengers at arms, and those relationships allow us to offer more individualized service as requests wend their way through the Central Authority procedure.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Service in Northern Ireland is substantially similar to that in England & Wales, although a separate Central Authority is established in Belfast for such service. Articles 5 and 10(b) are effective.

Service on the “Emerald Isle” is complicated by the divided governance of the territory. Only the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry/Londonderry, Down, Fermanagh, and Tyrone are part of the United Kingdom. The remaining counties comprise the Republic of Ireland.

While the Republic is also a member of the Hague Service Convention, it handles service requests differently. Neither government may effect service in the territory of the other, so litigants absolutely must ensure whether their defendant is located in the Republic or the counties of Northern Ireland.

OVERSEAS TERRITORIES

The Convention is in force for most of Britain’s overseas territorial units, although many former colonies have achieved independence. For the most part, those territories have either (1) gained independence and considered themselves bound by the Convention, (2) gained independence and acceded to the Convention independently, (3) gained independence and have not yet declared themselves bound, or (4) remain part of the UK and therefore bound. In the latter case, many territories maintain their own Central Authorities.

Translation Requirements for
Serving Process in the UK

Of course, the UK does not require translation of documents already in English. In all cases, however, documents must reasonably be understood by the defendant in order to fulfill US Due Process requirements.

Central Authority

The Central Authorities for the UK are:

For England and Wales:
The Senior Master
For the attention of the Foreign Process Section
Room E16
Royal Courts of Justice
Strand
LONDON WC2A 2LL

For Scotland:
Scottish Government
EU & International Law Branch
2W St. Andrew’s House
EDINBURGH EH1 3DG
Scotland, UK

For Northern Ireland:
The Master (Queen’s Bench and Appeals)
Royal Courts of Justice
BELFAST 1
Northern Ireland

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Note:

The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information is believed to be accurate at the time of posting; however, LLS is not responsible for any information which may have become outdated or inaccurate.

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