There are numerous cases about service of the claim form on this blog. They are clearly a major issue in the Masters’ Corridor. Witness the opening words of Master McCloud’s judgment in Caretech Community Services Ltd v Oakden & Ors [2017] EWHC 1944 (QB). A botched attempt at service was followed by an unsuccessful attempt to argue that copies sent to solicitors “for information only” could lead to the court stating that there had been good alternative service.


“April and indeed May are, notoriously, ‘bluebell time in Kent’, but on the Masters’ corridor those months this year have yielded only a dry and unlovely crop of procedural service issues. Despite efforts by numerous courts at all levels to prevent their re-growth, issues over service of claim forms tend to spring up, encouraging a simile far too obvious to state. “


The claimant lost at a trial held on the issue of whether the claim form had been validly been served. The Master held that the claim form had not been served and that the process server was not wholly honest. The claimant, having lost on that issue, made an application for an order that the steps already taken be taken to constitute good service.  Those steps constituted of sending a photocopy of the claim form to solicitors assisting the defendant (who did not have instructions to accept service). The copy claim form was sent, expressly, “for information only”.


The claimant was unsuccessful in its applications.

    1. April and indeed May are, notoriously, ‘bluebell time in Kent’, but on the Masters’ corridor those months this year have yielded only a dry and unlovely crop of procedural service issues. Despite efforts by numerous courts at all levels to prevent their re-growth, issues over service of claim forms tend to spring up, encouraging a simile far too obvious to state. This judgment is therefore one of three practical if unlovely unconnected cases relating to service issues. Hearings have concluded in this case and in Jones v Chichester Harbour Conservancy, but one, Al-Haddad v BBCremains listed for a further two days of argument later this year. Because of the potential overlap in the legal issues I have asked for written submissions from the parties in those cases for consideration in this case, limited to matters of law in areas of overlap.
    2. The cases may be seen in the light not only of the authorities referred to before me (which were numerous) but also alongside my decision, and the appeal decision upholding my decision, in Weston v Bates (citation below). It may assist practitioners if I provide information broadly about the three cases (CaretechJones and Al-Haddad) since they relate to issues concerning the interpretation and application of the CPR in relation to aspects of service of Claim forms.
    3. The service issue claims are:
(i) Caretech Community Services Ltd v Berry and Ors
      • Interpretation of meaning of CPR r. 6.15(2) as to the availability of relief in principle (whether rule an apply to cases where there are errors of both method and place of service, whether the rule applies to cases of ‘Non-service’), discussion of concepts of “Non-service” versus “Mis-service” and ‘good reason’, and manner of exercise of discretion to validate service by the wrong method and/or at the wrong place.
(ii) Jones v Chichester Harbour Conservancy
      • Interrelationship between the rules as to the timing of the taking of the ‘relevant step’ for service under CPR r.7.5 and the operation of the deemed date of service under CPR r. 6.14, where it is said the deemed date of service is out of time for validity of the claim form but where the ‘relevant step’ is taken during the validity of the claim form. Claimant argues it validly served in time by taking the ‘relevant step’ during validity.
(iii) Al-Haddad v British Broadcasting Corporation Claim No. HQ16D00807
    • Rules 6.15(2) and 3.10, where the claim form was posted to a subsidiary company (BBC Worldwide Limited) instead of the Worldwide Headquarters of the BBC (into whose physical possession it came after expiry), where service was held by me to be invalid and a subsequent application is pursued to validate service on the basis of ‘good reason’ and/or to grant relief under rule 3.10.



There had been an earlier trial on whether valid service had taken place.  This, in itself, is fascinating.

    1. I shall refer to the Claimant as “C” and the Third Defendant (Mrs Berry) as “D3”. On 16th January 2017 I held a trial in open court ([2017] EWHC 1146 (QB)) as to the issue of service of proceedings upon the Third Defendant, at which D3 and five other witnesses gave oral evidence and were cross examined. I rejected the evidence of a process server named Mr Mellor instructed by C that he had delivered proceedings to D3 at home and accepted the evidence of C that no such thing had taken place. I refer to that judgment for the detail but the flavour of the issues and my decision can be illustrated by the following extract:
22. I prefer the evidence of the Berrys over that of Mr Mellor insofar as it differs. Mr Mellor’s chaotic approach to the accuracy of his certificates of service, his apparent woeful lack of knowledge of the role of a statement of truth or as to the propriety of signing documents but leaving the date unaltered when he must know that such is misleading and the shifting answers he gave in relation to why documents were dated as they were or whether a document had been freshly signed all give me no confidence in the accuracy of whatever records he may keep in relation to service of documents or in relation to his entire approach to accuracy of court documents. I need not find as a fact the actual address if any of service of the claim form: I am satisfied that it was not served at number 46. Given the lack of accuracy of Mr Mellor’s documents, it is also of no surprise that the documents did not go to number 40 either despite the wording of the first and second certificates. Whatever he did with them (and it was suggested that he may have used an incompetent other person to do the work, but I need not go into that given my decision here) he did not serve them at 46 and may not have served them at all anywhere.
23. As to the second service in my judgment that is a clear fabrication. The Certificate is wrongly dated December 2015 when Mr Mellor accepts he had not yet had the wording of the statement of truth. It is far more likely that he produced that document a year later. The idea that he would take it upon himself to re-serve black and white copy documents in 2015 and then execute a new certificate of service without any instruction from any client to do so, and then omit to mention that fact or provide the certificate until about a year later when he knew there was a dispute as to service, such that the suggestion arose well after the evidence and disclosure deadlines had passed, is fanciful and I reject it. Service of photocopies would in any event not be valid service but my finding is that not even the copies were served.
  1. The consequence was that there had been no service of the claim on D3 and I set aside a default judgment which had been obtained against D3.
  2. This judgment concerns an application which flows from the outcome of the trial, namely an application by C under CPR 6.15(2) to direct that steps already taken “to bring the claim form to the attention of the defendant by an alternative method or at an alternative place is good service


Having lost on that issue the Claimant, unabashed, made an application under CPR 6.15(2)

  1. This judgment concerns an application which flows from the outcome of the trial, namely an application by C under CPR 6.15(2) to direct that steps already taken “to bring the claim form to the attention of the defendant by an alternative method or at an alternative place is good service


  1. The application under rule 6.15(2) seeks an order from me to authorise (or perhaps more precisely retrospectively validate as good service) the service of the Claim form on D3 on the basis that a copy of the Claim form was delivered by post and also by email on 16 November 2015 to Quality Solicitors who were advising D3. They were not on record as acting for her and were not authorised to accept service. It is common ground that delivery of the copy claim form was not good service because Quality Solicitors had not been authorised to accept service, a fact which was known to C’s solicitors. The hard copy document was a photocopy and there was no response pack. A covering letter was sent at the same time, by both post and email, indicating that the claim form was being provided ‘for information’.
  2. This being a service issue, the timing of delivery to Quality Solicitors is, unsurprisingly, important because the claim form’s 4 month period of validity for service expired on 24 December 2015 and hence unless C obtains the order from me which it seeks, there has been no good service during the period of validity, it being the case that at the trial I held that there had been no service of the Claim form to D3 or her home address (and moreover no physical delivery to D3 directly at all, even leaving aside questions of validity of service).
  3. There are no applications under r.6.16 (order dispensing with service in exceptional circumstances) or r.7.6 (extension of time for service of claim form – which inter alia requires all reasonable steps to have been taken to serve in time). Nor is there an application for relief from sanctions under r. 3.10. It is quite proper that the Claimant has not made such applications given the unusual and most unfortunate facts found by me at trial.


Helpfully the Master broke the judgment down into component parts.

Issue 1: Non-Service versus Mis-Service, scope of court’s powers under r.6.15(2)
    1. D3 argues that the court cannot, as a matter of principle, retrospectively validate service of a claim form where there has been ‘Non-service‘, by which is meant no delivery at all to the Claimant and no purported service on her solicitors (the hard copy and emailed letter enclosing the claim form to Quality Solicitors stated that it was for their ‘information‘. It did not purport to be service, and furthermore the hard copy claim form which was provided was a photocopy).
    2. D3 says that there is a crucial legal and procedural difference between
(i) complete failure to deliver or purport to deliver the claim form for purposes of service (‘Non-service’); and
(ii) defective service (‘Mis-service’) such as where there was an attempt to serve validly but some error meant that the delivery of the document to the Claimant fell short of meeting the requirements for valid service.
  1. D3’s position is that Rule 6.15(2) on its proper construction may only be invoked to remedy cases in the latter category ie ‘Mis-service’, where there has been proof of an actual attempt to serve which would have been good service but for being by the wrong method or at the wrong place
Issue 2: Whether power under r.6.15 can be exercised in cases where there is a failure of both method of service and location of service.
  1. This argument principally rests on the use of the word “or” at two places in r. 6.15 ((1) Where it appears to the court that there is a good reason to authorise service by a method or at a place not otherwise permitted by this Part, the court may make an order permitting service by an alternative method or at an alternative place. In Nutifafa Kuenyehia (2) Doris Enyonam (3) Lartisan Services Inc. v International Hospitals Group the Court of Appeal dealt with a second appeal where proceedings were sent by fax and courier to the Defendant’s solicitors. However the Defendant’s solicitors had not indicated that they were instructed to accept service. Master Eyre on application by the defendant dispensed with service, but on first appeal Crane J held that the Master had not had a basis for doing so since the requirement of what was then rule 6.9, namely that the party serving had to have taken ‘reasonable steps to effect service’ if service was to be dispensed with. Therefore one notes that Kuenyehia was strictly a case determined under the predecessor of what is now rule 6.16 rather than 6.15, but D3 relies on it for the apparent approach to the court’s powers illustrated in the quotation below where I have emboldened the words “either” and “or”.
Issue 3: ‘good reason’ and exercise of discretion
  1. D3 relied on Brown v Innovatorone at para 40 where it was stated that the court should “adopt a rigorous approach to an application by a Claimant for indulgence” and (at para. 41) that the power “should not be exercised over-readily“. The CPR rules as to service are, says D3, prescriptive and clear so as to achieve certainty and ensure the smooth conduct of litigation.”
    1. One sees from the glossary to the CPR that ‘service’ is defined there (and hence in the original Statutory Instrument creating the Civil Procedure Rules) as follows:


Steps required by rules of court to bring documents used in court proceedings to a person’s attention.”

    1. If that were all there was to it then one would not need to look beyond ascertaining whether the required steps were taken as required by rules of court, irrespective of whether in fact the claim form came to the attention of the defendant. However the glossary to the CPR stresses at the start that:

This glossary is a guide to the meaning of certain legal expressions as used in these Rules, but it does not give the expressions any meaning in the Rules which they do not otherwise have in the law.”

    1. Looking to the law, then, it seems to me that the following principles can be derived from the authorities:
(1) Has a claim been ‘served’?
i. Whether a document has been “served” is an objective question, not a subjective one. One does not look at what either party thoughtthey were doing but only what they in fact did. As to this, I agree with and follow the judgment of Clarke J in Asia Pacific para.19.
ii. The common thread in the authorities and rules is that the party serving the document delivers it into the possession or control of the recipient or takes steps to cause it to be so delivered in accordance with the rules. Per Clarke J at para 20 in Asia Pacific, and also consistent with the CPR Glossary.
iii. A party delivering the claim form may say that he is not delivering it by way of service, but for information only. If he does so he is to be taken at his word[2].
iv. It may be unjust and contrary to the overriding objective to treat a claim form as served in circumstances where the claim was merely (judged objectively) being drawn to a party’s attention for information without steps amounting to service having been taken. (United Utilities , per HHJ Wood para 68).
v. Following Cranfield v Bridgegrove (applied in Hills at para. 45) what is required under the CPR generally for good service (in addition to the other requirements such as location of service) is delivery of a hard copy document as sealed and issued by the courtsave where the rules expressly or by necessary implication permit a copy (such as service by fax or email) or where the unusual circumstances such as those in Weston v Bates apply.
vi. The above is consistent with the definition of “Service” in the CPR Glossary which, in the light of the authorities, one can logically break down into the core ingredients of valid service as follows:

1. Steps (ie something must be done by the party)

2. Which are required by rules of court (ie, for valid service the steps must be those required by the rules)

3. Which are steps taken [for the objectively judged purpose of] bringing documents used in court proceedings to a person’s attention.

(2) Scope of rule 6.15(2) in validating otherwise defective service (issues 1 and 2)
i. When considering relief under r. 6.15(2) it is critical (ie, necessary as a minimum) that the form and contents has come to the defendant’s attention (see Abela).

ii. However the mere fact that a claim form and its contents has been delivered in such a way that it has come to the attention of the defendant is not enough by itself to justify retrospective validation of otherwise invalid service. More is needed. (Per Lord Neuberger in Abela, paras. 33-36). As regards the scope of rule 6.15(2), if a claim form and contents have not come to the attention of a defendant then relief is not available under rule 6.15 (2).

iii. MB Garden Buildings Limited v Burton can be understood as being an example of a case where the basic critical requirement in Abela was not met, since the court had concluded that there had been “Non-service” and stated that it did “not think that CPR 6.15 and in particular the retrospective power given to the court under CPR 6.15([2]) was designed for the purpose of curing that sort of failure to comply adequately with the civil procedure rules“. In MB Garden Buildings, the content of the claim form came to the attention of the defendant after it had expired and so that case is not on all fours with this on its facts.

iv. In my judgment it would defeat the policy and purpose of the ‘Asia Pacific’ exception (ie that a party must be taken at his word if he states that the purpose of delivery of the claim form is for ‘information only’ rather than for service) if despite that clear principle a defendant was left open to the risk that after the event such a claim form, which was objectively and purposefully not served on him but provided only for information (therefore coming to his attention as a result of steps taken for that purpose), could later be retrospectively validated as served using rule 6.15(2). There is no good reason in my judgment to introduce such uncertainty into the rules as to service and validation of service. I therefore reject the argument by C that the content of the letter enclosing the copy claim form is immaterial in a case where objectively delivery was for information and not by way of service.

v. Reading Asia Pacific and Brown together, given the above point, one in my judgment should understand ‘steps taken’ in rule 6.15(2) as meaning steps which, objectively judged, are taken for the purpose of bringing the claim to the attention of the defendant, provided that the steps were not incompatible with service. Thus a claim form accompanied by a letter stating that it is provided expressly for information only (ie not for service) will not be one for which rule 6.15(2) will offer relief even though doing so crosses the first (necessary but not sufficient) hurdle in Abela[3] ie that the claim form and its content came to the attention of the Defendant as a result of steps taken. By contrast a claim form bearing no such statement was treated as served in Asia Pacific.

vi. If I am wrong as to (iv) and (v), it is nonetheless the case that a statement that a document is provided ‘for information [only]’ forms part of all the circumstances as to whether there is a good reason, or not, for validating service.
vii. In my judgment approaching rule 6.15(2) by attempting to divide cases into those of “Mis-service” and “Non-service” is not of real assistance. The distinction was drawn and applied by the District Judge in United Utilities and was upheld by HHJ Woods on appeal but it is clear that the learned judge himself felt it did not sit comfortably in cases where the error was one of form. One might then foresee the notion that one could have cases of “Mis-service”, “Non-service” and perhaps a third category of error such as “error of form”, and so on. I do not think such an approach would be helpful and is likely to amount to an irresistible intellectual challenge to advocates in terms of generating case law as to the boundaries of such categories and their implications.
viii. I do not accept D3’s argument that the wording of rule 6.15(2) leads to the conclusion that the court lacks the power to validate service which took place at the wrong location and in the wrong manner, if the other circumstances bring the case within the rule. As a matter of policy in my judgment it would sit ill with the Overriding Objective if a court was disempowered from validating service where (let us say) a minor error as to both location and manner took place, whilst being able in principle to waive more significant errors as long as they were ‘either’ as to method ‘or’ as to location. Moreover as a matter of drafting it seems probable that the word “either” would have been included if the use of the word “or” was intended to be “exclusive or” (XOR in formal logic terms) rather than “inclusive” of the case where both types of defect arise.[4] It would also be a conclusion which rather conflicts with the established practice of the court in suitable cases to allow alternative service under rule 6.15(1), where it is commonplace to direct service both by novel means and at otherwise unauthorised places if an application is made and the court is satisfied that such is appropriate.
    1. The approach I therefore take and which seems to me to come from the available case law is that:

(a) critically, that the content of the existence of the claim form and its content has in fact come to the attention of the defendant; and

(b) if, judged objectively and not subjectively, the purpose of the steps taken was to bring it to his attention for service rather than solely for information,


rule 6.15(2) is, subject to the requirement for “good reason” and the exercise of the court’s discretion, available to validate the steps taken for that purpose even if the errors are both errors of method of delivery and errors of place of delivery.

    1. In this case I am not required to consider the position in terms of the availability an application of rule 6.15(2) where the claim form comes to the attention of the Defendant after its expiry and an application is made to validate service under rule 6.15(2).
How to approach the question of “good reason” once one is satisfied that rule 6.15(2) is available in principle.
    1. The following conclusions arise from the authorities in my judgment:
(i) The court should simply ask itself “whether in all the circumstances of the particular case, there is a good reason to make the order sought” (Per Lord Neuberger in Abela, para 35).
    1. In approaching that basic question the following matters[5] are of assistance in approaching ‘all the circumstances’ of an application under rule 6.15(2):
(ii) “good reason” within the meaning of CPR r. 6.15 is something less than “exceptional circumstances” and I follow OOO Abbott v Econowall, at 43-48, discussing Bethell Construction Ltd v Deloitte and Touche.
(iii) The “relevant focus is upon the reason why the claim form cannot or could not be served within the period of its validity” (Abela, para. 48). Barton v Wright Hassall is a useful example discussing that approach.
(iv) The conduct of the parties is relevant under rule 6.15: Kaki v National Private Air Transport Co. and Ors. at 33.
(v) The absence of a Limitation Act time bar is a factor to take into account in favour of granting the application but equally there is in such a case nothing to stop a claimant from re-issuing and to enable it to obtain a ruling. There may often be higher issue fees as a result, but that is a consequence of the claimant’s failure to serve in time and is not a ‘good reason’. (Gee 7).
(vi) Even where there is no identifiable prejudice to the defendant, such is a factor in the claimant’s favour but does not on its own amount to a ‘good reason’ (Gee 7).
(vii) I note that in Kaki, Aikens LJ with whom the remainder of the court agreed, interpreted the Supreme Court decision in Abela as not stating that there is a ‘two stage test’ whereby a good reason must first be identified and then secondly whether the court should exercise discretion to allow the application. He suggested that the comment at 6.15.3 of the white book to that effect citing Lightman J in Albon might need reconsideration. However in this case I do not have to express a view on that aspect in view of the conclusion I have reached that there is no ‘good reason’.
    1. The new form of the overriding objective with its emphasis on obedience to court rules and orders, and the thrust of authorities such as MitchellDenton and (in service cases) for example Cranfield, all point to a more rigorous approach to requiring compliance with rules and orders where it is reasonable to expect them to be able to do so.
    1. I conclude that:
(a) the claim form and contents came to the attention of D3 before expiry. The method and form of service was defective because D3’s solicitors were not authorised to accept service and because (in the case of the postal copy), what was delivered was a copy and not an original.
(b) In my judgment the sentence in the letter of 16 November 2015 stating “We enclose a copy of the Claim form and Particulars of Claim for your information” is sufficient objective evidence (when understood in the context that Quality Solicitors were not instructed to accept service, a fact of which both sides were aware), to amount to a statement equivalent to “for information only”. Objectively judged the purpose of delivery was therefore to bring the claim to the attention D3 but the evidence is also inconsistent with those steps being capable of service in principle, because C had elected to state that delivery was ‘for information’.
(c) Moreover even if I am wrong as to my conclusion at (b) immediately above it would be unjust and contrary to the overriding objective (and hence there would be no ‘good reason’) to permit documents expressly delivered on the basis that they were not being served, to be validated, after the event, for the very service which C had disavowed in the first place and upon which D3 was entitled to rely. C should be held to its word and a party should be able to know that when its lawyers receive documents which on their face are not being served, that such can be relied on.
(d) It follows that in my judgment rule 6.15(2) does not provide the court with the power to validate service on these facts, and that alternatively even if I am wrong and I do have such a power, the fact of them being provided expressly for ‘information’ only is a very powerful factor pointing to there being no ‘good reason’ to make an order under the rule.
(e) I do not consider that, if one gets as far as the ‘good reason’ test, the facts taken together would justify making an order under r.6.15(2) or are capable of supplying a ‘good reason’ to consider taking that course. There was no sensible reason why the claim form could not be validly served in time in this case especially once it was known that service was disputed whilst the form was still valid. C simply had not taken advantage at all of the generous time period allowed for service when serving validly would have been easy. That is all the more so since the dispute over validity of service was known to C prior to expiry of the claim form, so that remedying it would have been perfectly straightforward. The fact that re-issuing would cost a further issue fee is simply the consequence of C’s error and is not a good reason, and delay caused to the case is for the most part delay which has in any event already been caused by the default itself: C could have re-issued already if it chose, to save the delay of this application. The failure of the process server to serve, in law, is the failure of the Claimant – and hence I take into account the trite principle that in modern litigation incompetence is not a good reason for relief to be granted – but I do not of course go as far as attributing the dishonesty of the process server to the Claimant.
(f) There was suggestion to me that relying on Albon that rule 6.15(2) imputes by its wording a two stage approach to exercise of the power under that rule, ie the decision as to ‘good reason’ and then consideration, if there is good reason, whether to make an order. I have already noted the interpretation placed on Abela by the Court of Appeal in Kaki in this respect above and the comments there about Albon. However that point does not arise for me to decide here given my decision that there is no good reason in any event.
  1. I therefore dismiss the application. I invite the parties to liaise in producing an agreed consequential order.