Recently it was reported that the Birmingham based law firm, SGH Martineau, has been granted permission by a judge sitting in the High Court to serve an injunction over Twitter, against a far-right organisation that had taken to trespassing over their client’s university campuses.
Perhaps surprisingly, this is not a legal first. In 2009 it was reported that the High Court granted an injunction against an anonymous Twitter user posing as a right-wing political blogger, in doing so passing off mildly offensive content as though it were the impersonated. In Australia the judiciary have turned to Facebook to grant a court order against an alleged cyberbully after attempts to serve the order in person, over the telephone or via post failed. Closer to home we have seen Judge Bronagh O’Hanlonthe sitting in the High Court of Ireland approve an order allowing a liquidator to serve documents over LinkdIn.
In the United Kingdom rule 6.20 of the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) lays out that documents other than claim forms can be served using a variety of methods, including “fax or other means of electronic communication in accordance with Practice Direction 6A” and “any method authorised by the court under rule 6.27”. The court may permit service by these alternative methods where there is “good reason” to authorise service by a method other than the methods expressly permitted under Part 6 of the CPR. Without this alternative means of serving documents or a claim form on another, there would be difficulties serving papers in cases such as those above where the individuals could only be contacted through social media.
This is something that the law has clearly recognised. While the use of such methods may not be groundbreaking in the grand scheme of things, it does demonstrate the increasing modernity of judges. This mechanism of delivering justice is a necessity in our new digital world. One in which the internet and being online gains a more prominent place in our everyday lives.