Barclays Bank Swaziland Ltd v Hahn: HL 1989

The House considered the validity of service of proceedings. Documents were served by means of ‘letterbox service’ when the defendant was en-route to this country but was not within the jurisdiction. Later that day he arrived within the jurisdiction and was warned by his servant of the delivery of a package, which plainly contained proceedings being sought to be served on him, to his flat in London. He did not, therefore, go to the flat but sent his wife to confirm what his servant had told him. He stayed that night in a hotel and left the jurisdiction the following day. The case was governed by Order 10 Rule 1 of the Rules of the Supreme Court which provided at sub-rule (3) that where proceedings were served by ‘letterbox service’, ‘the date of service shall, unless the contrary is shown, be deemed to be the 7th day . . after the date on which the copy was sent to or, as the case may be, inserted through the letterbox for the address in question.’
Held: the service had been good. The proceedings were drawn to the defendant’s attention at a time when he was within the jurisdiction, namely, when his servant and his wife drew his attention to the package which had been delivered to the flat before he left the country on the second day.
Lord Brightman: ‘The bank contended that although a writ can be served on a defendant personally only if he is then physically present within the jurisdiction, nevertheless it does not follow that physical presence within the jurisdiction is necessary for the validity of the alternative means of service provided by Order 10, namely, postal or letter box service. In support of this argument it was contended that in the opening words of paragraph (2) ‘A writ for service on a defendant within the jurisdiction may . . . be served’ by post or through the letter box, the words ‘within the jurisdiction’ are not descriptive of ‘a defendant’ but of the nature of ‘a writ for service,’ namely, a writ which is in the form of a writ for service within the jurisdiction as distinct from a writ which is in the form of a writ for service outside the jurisdiction. The former type of writ can properly be served on a defendant who is outside the jurisdiction provided that the requirements of the order are fulfilled, that is to say, in the case of letter box service, the letter box must be located at the usual address of the defendant, or at his last known address and the plaintiff must be in a position to depose when he seeks to prove service that in his opinion the copy writ will have come to the knowledge of the defendant within seven days after such insertion.’ and
‘My Lords, I accept the appellant’s proposition that the defendant must be within the jurisdiction at the time when the writ is served, and I do not find it possible to agree the Court of Appeal’s approach. [namely that service of proceedings issued for service within the jurisdiction can properly be served at the last known address of the defendant within the jurisdiction notwithstanding that, at the time of service, the defendant is abroad] This approach would mean that a writ could validly be served under Order 10 on a defendant who had once had an address in England but had permanently left this country and settled elsewhere, by inserting the copy writ through the letter box of his last address, provided that the plaintiff was able within seven days to communicate to the defendant the existence of the copy writ; for in such circumstances the plaintiff could properly depose that the copy writ would have come to the knowledge of the defendant within seven days after it was left in the letter box of his last known address. [a requirement of the rules of the Supreme Court not reproduced in the CPR] This appears to me to outflank Order 11 (relating to service of process outside the jurisdiction) in every case where the defendant was formerly resident in this country and is capable of being contacted abroad within seven days. I feel no doubt that the words ‘within the jurisdiction’ apply to the defendant, and not to the writ for service.’


Lord Brightman


[1989] 1 WLR 506


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedRolph v Zolan CA 1993
Postal service of County Court proceedings on an address within the jurisdiction could be good service notwithstanding that the defendant was physically outside the jurisdiction at the time of such service. Referring to RSC O10R1: ‘Thus it is . .
Still good lawFairmays (A Firm) v Palmer ChD 31-Jan-2006
The defendant appealed against a decision not to set aside a judgment obtained against him by default. Whilst he retained a property in England, he lived in Ethiopia. The claim was served at the address in England, but was redirected to another . .
CitedChellaram and Another v Chellaram and others (No 2) ChD 16-Apr-2002
One of the defendants had not been properly served by posting the proceedings to an address at which he stayed on his very occasional visits to London. The proceedings had not been issued for the purposes of service abroad, because at the time of . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice

Updated: 07 May 2022; Ref: scu.238294