Generally speaking, process serving is a relatively safe practice, however respondents can and do become aggressive when being served. Below are our tips to ensure you keep safe when serving…………………
Get sufficient information from your client – in addition to understanding exactly what you are serving, and how your client (and the service rules) expect it to be served, it is important to understand if there are any factors which may suggest the respondent will react badly to such service. Particularly when serving family related paperwork such a non-molestation orders or matters concerning someone’s children, always ask your client whether there is any history of violence. Don’t assume your client will let you know about it. If there is, consider whether you require a second agent to accompany you, or even the police.
Read what you are serving – the documentation may be too large to read the whole thing, but read excerpts and get an understanding of what you are serving. Documentation can also provide useful information to assist with the serve such as date of birth, telephone numbers, working patterns etc.
If it’s deemed a dangerous serve, and your client is not prepared to allow the fee scope to make it safe, don’t take the job – you don’t have to accept every instruction, and nor should you if it places your personal safety in jeopardy.
Attend at suitable times – respondents are much more likely to react badly if you serve them at an inappropriate time. Attending very late at night, or very early in the morning can aggravate a situation. People knocking on a door at a very unsociable hour can heighten danger and make occupiers uncomfortable.
Park as if you need to get away – always leave your vehicle in a position where it is easy for you to leave a location if you need to. Park facing the exit to the street, and not towards a dead-end. Keep your car keys easily accessible, enabling you to get into your car, and away quickly, if needed.
Don’t go inside a respondents house – there are very limited circumstances in which you would deem it appropriate to go inside someone’s house. Even a seemingly pleasant doorstep serve can turn nasty once inside. Unless you believe the respondent is incapacitated, do not go inside, and if you do go inside, only enter if you are certain it is safe and stay as near to the exit as possible.
Consider using a bodyworn camera – some process servers are now choosing to wear bodyworn cameras to record service, for their safety. There are GDPR considerations to the use of such equipment, so be sure to understand your legal obligations.
Attitude is key – being yelled at is part of the job – it happens. But how you deal with that can have a huge impact on the outcome. A process server must remain calm at all times – empathise without jeopardising your clients position, and stress that you are not party to the proceedings. If you cannot keep calm in a tense situation, process serving is not for you – realise that the anger is not meant at you, and is a reaction to their situation. NEVER provoke the situation by joining in the argument.
It is OK to deem too unsafe to continue with service – whilst your client may not agree, if you have been threatened with physical harm if you leave the paperwork at the address etc, DO NOT LEAVE IT THERE. There are means through the court to deal with such situations – just walk away.
Never turn your back – make sure you are aware of where the respondent is at all times, and never turn your back on them. If a situation is tense, walk backwards to remove yourself from the situation.
Given them an outlet – if a respondent is demanding further information, explain you do not have any, and provide them with the details of the person who instructed you so they can direct queries directly to them. Give them the means to progress the matter without violence. Most volatile behaviour is born from frustration at the situation, so be helpful and give them the means to move forward.
Be aware of family / friends / acquaintances – danger can come from associates of the respondent, and not just the respondent themselves. Be aware of where everybody is.
Talk it through – if you have a ‘bad serve’, talk it through with someone else in the industry and try to work out if you could do anything differently next time which may have alleviated the situation.
Report violent behaviour – make the police aware of situations which got out of control, or which you believe had the capacity to. Just because you managed to ‘walk away’ it does not mean the next person will be so lucky – make sure the police have a record of any incidences for future reference.
ASH (UK) Process Servers Ltd offer nationwide process serving for a fixed fee. For more information, contact 01543 888218 or email firstname.lastname@example.org