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A process server’s example

How important is the process server? That is the question posed by Eric Shelmerdine, investigator based in Blackpool and secretary of the Association of British Investigators (ABI).

If you look at the Legal Services Commission Guide on “fees” you will have to say, not very. In fact as the very bottom of the fee scale at £35 per hour I guess you could even say “pretty insignificant”. If you are unfortunate enough to operate in London, then your reward is £26 per hour. Yes!!

The problem is that those who set these fees, don’t really understand the role a process server plays in the overall sequence of events.

Picture the following, long suffering Gladys Notathome has finally had enough of her live in partner Ivor Nastystreak live in, that is, when he isn’t locked up for drug dealing and violence ) and decides, after he knocks seven bells out of her for the umpteenth time, to seek a Non Molestation Order through the County Court.

She plucks up enough courage to go to her local solicitors Cheetham & Twistem who duly do their bit and make an emergency application to the court after providing ex parte evidence in support. An all day job for the solicitor, but a successful outcome, the sitting Judge has seen and heard enough and grants the Order. Job done for the solicitor and the judge, and very well done, no qualms. Gladys finally has the protection of the court and now has nothing to worry about as the order has a “power of arrest” attached. All achieved on a Friday afternoon. The return date is the following Monday.

Enter the “pretty insignificant” process server who is instructed to go to the county court and wait for the order to be typed, checked and stamped with the seal of the court. This often takes time, and the court staff try their best to get the job done, so that they can get the hell out of there and enjoy a well-deserved Friday night out and peaceful weekend.

The experienced process server will generally double-check the documents whilst still at the court desk, trying hard not to delay matters or come across as clever so and so, who was serving injunctions whilst the young person the other side of the court counter was still in “Pampers”, and of course being conscious that the staff have by now all got their coats on and are playing with their car keys.

Drop a copy off at the instructing solicitor’s offices (which by now are closed for the weekend) and back to his own office to take copies for affidavit purposes. Now the simple bit, find Ivor Nastystreak and plonk the order on him, then drop the power of arrest off at the local police station.

Where to start? Best call and see Gladys, who with a strange man she has never seen before knocking at her door on a Friday evening, and still nursing two black eyes, courtesy of Ivor, will only speak through the letterbox. Who can blame her?

“Where am I likely to find him?” “Anyone’s guess,” comes Gladys’ reply, “you could try his locals, The Flying Stool, The Drug Dealers’ Den or The Nutter’s Arms. Sometimes he goes to a karaoke bar later on, it’s on Muggers Lane, I think it’s called Murder a Song”.

No problems then for the process server, eh? whoopee, just think of the £35 per hour he is earning unless Ivor lives in London of course in which case, £26 per hour).

Now I know you are dying to find out what happens next, but I am leaving the ensuing likely events to your own imagination, and most of our members who carry out process serving will have been there and know exactly what to expect, but suffice it to say that if good old Ivor is not found and personally served, then he cannot be in breach of the order that Gladys, her solicitor, the judge and the court staff have worked so hard to obtain, as it has not been brought to his attention. The police would probably love to lock Ivor up again, he has been in the cells more times than the custody sergeant. Whilst they could arrest him for any breach of the peace, they cannot for breach of a judge’s order which has not been served.

So the chain of events, to be successful, has to complete the circle, if one link in the chain is missing, then the other links, as important as they are, don’t mean a thing and the process fails. More often than not our “insignificant” process server will, one way or another, get his nasty man, complete the circle, and the system works. So to all those who have taken the trouble to read this hypothetical example, please reconsider the important role the process server does play in these matters and let the remuneration reflect the often dangerous and difficult task.

The names and places referred to are fictitious to protect the guilty (had you guessed?)


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