back to article Court claim slapped on bloke via Facebook in landmark case

Facebook messages will become a common way to serve court documents, reckons lawyer Jenni Jenkins, after a judge allowed a legal claim to be sent to a bloke via the social network. Mr Justice Teare granted brokerage firm Traditional Financial Services (TFS) permission to serve a court notice to one of their former employees …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Umm.... would that work? How can you 100% verify the identity of the recipient and, at the recipient, verify the sender? If I was on Facebook (which I'm not) I'd assume it to be a phishing attempt.

    Unless, of course, is was signed with a GPG key and I would except it to be encrypted with my own key so as not to be public knowledge.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      And then.....

      ... encrypted with the sender's key that you could verify using their public key......

      It gets complicated. Bailiffs are better, recorded delivery is easier.

      1. Danny 14 Silver badge

        Re: And then.....

        recorded delivery is not guaranteed to be signed by "you" just signed by "someone". It is still good enough to warrant it being served. The onus is then on you to prove it wasnt.

        1. MacGyver

          Re: Re: And then.....

          Not only that, but based on the blatant stupidity shown, that judge needs to be removed yesterday.

          Well rocket-scientist judge here is a taste of all the future emails we all will be receiving millions of times a day now.

          "Dear sir or ma'am, I am a Nigerian Prince, it has come to my attention that you owe me money. You will show up in court on Monday the 3rd at 9:00 am or pay me $1,000 dollars now, your choice. Have a nice day. This email is completely legally binding.

          Prince Dave"

          So am I not going to be held legally liable if the providers spam-filter shreds it prior to me ever getting it?

          I am so sick of these technologically impaired law-makers deciding things and creating laws for things that they know they shouldn't be making decisions about. If I need certifications to get a job in IT, then any judge or law-maker should need the same to make law outlining IT. Period.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pity if you are not on FaceBook

    Do you then get away Scot Free?

    1. Mos Eisley Spaceport
      Thumb Up

      Re: Pity if you are not on FaceBook

      Yes, you do get away scot free, you're NOT on Facebook for a start!

  3. Christoph Silver badge

    Room for a new legal speciality

    There's an opening here for someone who can write a document which fulfils all the legal requirements for serving a claim but is almost certain to be blocked as spam or ignored on sight as spam, so the recipient never reads it.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Room for a new legal speciality

      Unfortunately all of that is very easy to automate, so the job is likely to be short-lived.

      It's an interesting side-channel attack, though.

      Prosecution: As you can see, we found child porn / stolen music / terrorist materials / manipulated climate data / suppressed evidence of Higgs boson on the defendant's laptop.

      Defendant: Hey! That's all stuff from my spam folder! I've never even opened any of that!

      Prosecution: So you say.

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    "Facebook would become a common way to serve documents in future."

    Now I know why I always have "new messages pending" even though I never log on!

  5. fishman


    "The account was believed to be active because De Biase had recently accepted some friend requests."

    IIRC, you can accept friend requests without ever logging on to facebook.

    1. Sporkinum

      Re: Friending

      IIRC, you can be active on facebook without ever logging onto facebook, after your account is initially setup. If you log in to other sites using facebook credentials as your login authenticator, facebook considers that as an active account.

      1. Craigness

        Re: Re: Friending

        An active account does not mean someone will be alerted that there is a message.

  6. Shady

    Twitter next?

    I'm suing your ass #SeeYouInCourt

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Papers have to be served by post, so there must have been a reason why this wasn't possible. You'd have to ask permission to serve by email, so just using Facebook's inbuilt 'email' isn't a massive leap. By the way, it doesn't set a precedent and the rules surrounding the serving of papers have not changed.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Papers have to be served by post, so there must have been a reason why this wasn't possible."

      Did you RTFA?

      "employers TFS pressed last Friday for Facebook to be used to contact De Biase because he was not believed to be resident at the address they had on record for him."

    2. Steve the Cynic


      You know not whereof you speak, well, not fully, anyway.

      Papers can be served by post, yes, and any form of post will do, even not-signed-for types like plain old first class.

      But they can also be served in person, and for some classes of paper this is probably a better way. You, as originator of the papers, do not have to do it yourself, and it is most common to employ a private detective to do it, especially if, as in my case, the servee is 200 miles away.

      In extreme cases, they can even be, in the words of an official to whom I spoke, be "nailed to her door" (in my case, the defendant was female). I protested that my name wasn't Martin Luther or anything, which raised a chuckle, but apparently it is legally valid in England, provided that you swear before a court official that you have done it.

  8. That Steve Guy

    Yep lets serve sensitive court notifications by facebook, a platform infamous for clickjack scams!

    Wouldn't surprise me if the person getting the message deleted it thinking it was fake.

  9. Purlieu

    Oh dear

    This is so full of issues that I don't know where to start. Suffice to say "what could possibly go wrong"

  10. big_D Silver badge


    Are you in contempt of court, if you don't bother logging in to Facebook for a couple of months and "miss" the court date, because you didn't know about it?

    With recorded delivery or delivered directly per hand, they know you have been served. With E-Mail and Facebook, they have no way to know whether you have actually received the document - or received it in time.

  11. despairing citizen
    Big Brother

    How many ways can this get challenged?

    So the obvious get out clauses.

    I never recieved it;

    1. Spam Canned

    2. Not my account gov'nor

    3. My account was highjacked and the information deleted

    4. A virus destroyed all the data

    5. I closed my account some time ago

    The information recieved was not readable

    1. Oh, the messages i had that day where corrupted

    2. My AV system detected a virus in an attached PDF and cleaned it.


    So the court upheld you can use any communication medium for a legal document (not new), (yes verbal contracts are enforceable, but the evidence value isn't worth the paper it's not printed on)

    1. Ross 7

      Re: How many ways can this get challenged?

      You don't get it do you? It's understandable to be fair - the majority here don't either. The doc is now deemed to be served and so can be acted upon by the court. That may mean a warrant of execution or similar instrument being granted, by which they physically take property from him and sell it (presuming it's not already liquid).

      His only defence is to go to the court and say "it wasn't served" for one of the reasons you've given. But by doing so he identifies himself and his address, so he gets served!

      The whole point is the guy is evidently trying to evade the jurisdiction of the court by avoiding service. The court certainly thinks so which is why they allowed service via Facebook in these exceptional circumstances. Basically he screwed himself.

  12. The Fuzzy Wotnot


    "Facebook would become a common way to serve documents in future."

    Oh yeah?

    Well I reckon there must be easily less than 15% of the UK population on it at a guess and I'm buggered if I'm handing over my info to Zuckerberg and his cronies to mine and sell just so some solicitors can feel like they're dragging their profession kicking and screaming into the modern age!

  13. ItsNotMe

    One more time... is yet ANOTHER reason to NEVER use Farcebook.

  14. mark l 2 Silver badge

    How would it work if the person serving the papers is not your friend on facebook? My account is set up to only receive messages from friends and im certainly not going to add some as a friend that i thought might be attempting to server court papers

  15. Trev 2

    Surely not that hard to find him via Nat Ins number?

    Surely it should be possible with a little digging for the solicitors to find the person involved and give them the documents in the more standard way?

    Debt collection agencies can trace people years later after they've moved several times, and councils can do it, so why not just employ one of them to find him? In an extreme case, couldn't they ask FB for the IP details and then contact his ISP (slightly more tricky with mobile internet)?

    Pretty sure these would be much more reliable ways than assuming that someone accessing an FB account is the genuine person you're after and that critically they will even read their mail.

  16. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    Who is Fabio De Biase...?

    ...and why are his legal papers in *my* FaceBook inbox ?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Year: 2036

    Warrant issued for man accused of NOT having Facebook account, said to be guilty under the "prevention of legal paper serving Act 2025".

    Police are currently seeking the perp' in meat-space.

  18. JaitcH

    Let the case proceed and ...

    then deny service of documents.

    Any judgement will be set aside and then the whole game can start again, and the Plantiff will have shown his hand.

    Finigin (As in There was an old man called ...)

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  20. vic 4

    "number of employees were still friends with him"

    Bet they aren't now! (Assuming he has read the message)

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