Serving a foreign claim in England and Wales pursuant to the Hague Service Convention 1965 (the Hague Convention) can be time-consuming, and delays can have an adverse effect on the conduct and outcome of the proceedings. Furthermore, the consequences of invalidly serving a foreign claim in England and Wales on enforcement of a judgment in that jurisdiction can be severe.

It is therefore important that parties who wish to serve foreign proceedings in England and Wales pursuant to the Hague Convention understand the available methods of service and their timeframes.

Service by the Foreign Process Section

Each signatory state of the Hague Convention has to designate a 'Central Authority' which will carry out requests for service of foreign proceedings. The English and Welsh Central Authority is the Foreign Process Section at the Royal Courts of Justice (the FPS). A request can be made to the FPS to serve foreign proceedings on a defendant based in England and Wales, but the process can take time, particularly given the administrative and logistical impediments caused by Covid-19.

Service by post

Service by post (without reference to the FPS) is a permitted method of service of foreign proceedings in England and Wales. The Hague Convention explicitly acknowledges that its provisions do not affect the internal law of a signatory state.

Nevertheless, the case law in respect of whether service of foreign proceedings by post is valid under the Hague Convention is unclear. Service by this method is therefore risky. Parties will need to ensure that service on this basis does not contravene the rules of their local jurisdiction.

Service by a solicitor

The Hague Convention permits a solicitor qualified in England and Wales to effect service of foreign proceedings by the methods stipulated in the Hague Convention and under English and Welsh law, such as by post or by personal service.

A solicitor will be able to arrange service of foreign proceedings by one or more of the methods stipulated in the Hague Convention or English and Welsh law. Given the delays with the FPS and risks of parties serving directly by post, the sensible course may be to instruct a solicitor to handle the service of foreign proceedings on the defendant in a timely and effective manner. Our dedicated litigation team at Russell-Cooke will be able to assist you with navigating the litigation process in England and Wales.