Courtroom 1, Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

The most critical question in serving a defendant is “WHERE?”  More specifically…

Where is the defendant located?
Where can you serve him/her/it?
Where must you serve him/her/it?
Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

Today’s cartographic dilemma: The British Isles.  Essentially, two massive islands off the northwestern coast of the European continent– Great Britain and Ireland– surrounded by hundreds of little ones.  The timing today is just right… The Championships 2019 (more commonly known simply as Wimbledon) got underway yesterday and will continue for the traditional fortnight.

The United Kingdom

Ah, where to begin?  Well, for starters, the UK is not a single country or jurisdiction.  Its official name is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  It’s actually four countries, with three distinct judiciaries:

  1. England & Wales are separate countries, but with a unified legal system.
  2. Scotland is entirely separate in terms of judicial structure.  And in terms of culture.  And history.  And temperament.  And… oh, jeez, just watch this, for crying out loud.
  3. Ireland– the island— is entirely separate, too.  But with a decidedly more complicated history.  (We’ll get to this one momentarily.)

Volumes have been written about this stuff, so I won’t go much further– just Google “difference between the UK and Great Britain” (and click through to the videos) for more.  Suffice to say that, although sending a request to the wrong Authority may not derail your case entirely, it can certainly delay it unnecessarily.  If your defendant is in Glasgow or Belfast, but you send your Hague Service Request to London– the Royal Courts will likely just forward it on to the proper venue.  What they probably won’t do, however, is forward your request to serve a defendant in Dublin or Cork.

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

The Ireland split is where the geography gets really hairy.  I won’t get into the whys and wherefores of Ireland’s division (I remain strictly agnostic as to the politics thereof– for a number of reasons), but it is critical to understand a bit of history in order to understand the geography that drives the procedural requirements of cross-border litigation.

See, for centuries, the whole of Ireland was governed by the British crown.  Just after the First World War, the Irish Free State was created, and after the Second World War, the Free State became a Republic.  Yet the six counties in the northeast of the island remained part of the United Kingdom (see here for elaboration on the partition of Ireland) and saw incredible strife and violence during three decades of “The Troubles“.  With the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the violence came to an end, and the Six Counties have enjoyed relative prosperity and a cautious peace.*

The Four Courts, Dublin.

Hague Service Requests

Again, I can’t stress enough the critical nature of the defendant’s location.  Here’s the breakdown of the proper destinations for Hague Service Requests:

Easy to avoid delays & rejections with a solid plan.


* I fear that the impending departure of the UK from the European Union puts the peace at risk… here’s hoping it doesn’t.

** The Irish Central Authority has historically just not gotten the job done.  If this has changed in recent years, please let me know in the comment section below, because I haven’t had a client choose that avenue when I can be confident that my solicitor will get the job done.