A civil injunction order must normally be personally served upon the Defendant(s). In cases where the defendant in question is likely to be deliberately evasive, has historically refused access, or is of no-fixed abode and / or there is an unknown address for service, this requirement can cause a number of practical difficulties. The recent unreported case of Mohamed Abdulrahman v Circle Housing Trust Ltd (2017) is a useful reminder of the options available to the court in such instances; where problems with personal service of a civil injunction order are anticipated, it may be sensible to consider seeking an order which permits alternative methods of service.
Under CPR r.81.8 the court is entitled to dispense with the ordinary rules of service of a copy of a judgment or order requiring a person not to do an act, if it is satisfied the person has had notice of it by being present when the order was made or notified of its terms by alternative means. CPR r.81.8(2) further permits the court to dispense with service of a copy of the judgment or order under the usual rules if “thinks it just to do so” and is entitled to “make an order in respect of service by an alternative method or at an alternative place”.
In the case of civil injunction orders requiring a person not to do an act, the court may therefore dispense with the requirement of personal service of the order on the tenant or permit service through alternative means, such as by email or by posting it through the tenant’s door.
As in Mohamed Abdulrahman v Circle Housing Trust Ltd (2017), this discretion is particularly useful where the anti-social behaviour complained of is in the form of non-access, making personal service of an order extremely difficult.
The Court of Appeal re-affirmed that under CPR r.81.8 the court has the jurisdiction to dispense with service of the notice by the usual means and is entitled to make an order in respect of service by an alternative method or an alternative place.
In June 2015, Circle Housing Trust Ltd made an application for a civil injunction order to be granted against an assured tenant Mr Mohamed Abdulrahman as a result of anti-social behaviour such as supergluing the lock on the communal door to the property and changing the locks to the property, preventing Circle Housing from accessing the property.
Circle Housing was granted a civil injunction order, which prohibited the anti-social behaviour and additionally stated that Mr Abdulrahman should not block the landlord, landlord’s employees and / or contractors from accessing the property during reasonable hours in order to carry out repairs. The injunction order also stated that Circle Housing should serve a copy of the order on Mr Abdulrahman by posting it through the letterbox to the property. Mr Abdulrahman had attended court when the order was granted and had been aware of its terms.
Circle Housing posted a copy of the order through the letterbox as required and contractors later attended the property to carry out maintenance works. During the course of the works, the electricity was cut off for a short period of time and Mr Abdulrahman brandished his walking stick at the contractors and shouted abuse at them, resulting in them being forced to leave the property, unable to finish the works. An employee of Circle Housing was due to attend the property the following day for an arranged meeting but when they attended the property, the Mr Abdulrahman refused to answer the door. The employee found the unopened letter containing the injunction which had been served on Mr Abdulrahman on the floor outside.
Circle Housing therefore made an application to commit Mr Abdulrahman for the breaches of the injunction order and the judge found the injunction had been breached twice and committed Mr Abdulrahman to 28 days imprisonment suspended for a period of 2 years.
Mr Abdulrahman appealed the imposition of the committal order and argued that the civil injunction had been inadequately served and attempted to re-argue issues of fact already determined.
On 29 June 2017, Lord Justice King and Lord Justice dismissed the appeal and held that under CPR r.81.8 the court was entitled to dispense with the usual forms of service and make an order regarding service of the order by alternative means and / or alternative place.
The Court of Appeal held the court was entitled to order the injunction personally served if posted through the letterbox, which it had been, and Mr Abdulrahman had been present when the order was granted and understood the terms of the order. As for the issues of fact, the Court of Appeal noted it was a court of review and should not making findings of fact. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal determined the judge had been entitled to find Mr Abdulrahman had breached the injunction and prevented contractors from accessing the property to undertake works.