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

06 Apr 2020

At the time of writing, the Master of the Rolls has issued three updates (numbers 116-118) which modifying provisions of the CPR to reflect the impact of Covid-19, introducing three new practice directions, PD 51Y, PD 51Z and 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 r.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 r.6.15 must set out the information prescribed in CPR PD6A para 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 r.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.

This article was first published by LexisPSL.


Sarah Clarke

Call: 2003


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