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Case Study – Process Serving

One Saturday morning we received an urgent call from a lawyer for whom we undertook a lot of work, particularly involving domestic violence. An emergency court had been convened and a judge had issued a very unusual order.  The solicitor’s client, a beaten wife, had been locked out of her ground floor flat by her violent, criminal, drug dealing partner.  He had thrown all her clothes and other belongings onto the lawn in front of the block and had fitted a number of new locks to the front door of the flat.

A judge had granted an injunction allowing us to forcibly gain entry to the flat and ordering the husband to leave the flat immediately and not to return or go within a quarter of a mile of the premises, or to assault, molest, threaten or harass or in any way interfere with his wife.  Failure to obey this order would have resulted in the husband’s imprisonment for contempt of court.  The judge advised that, because he was known to be violent, we should be accompanied by the police.

We therefore telephoned the local police station and they said they would send officers to meet us near the premises.  In the meantime we had met up with the wife who showed us a picture of an 88 lb Staffordshire Bull Terrier which she said, if in the control of her husband, was extremely vicious.  She advised that we should be very careful if her husband was inside as the dog would certainly attack us and she would not be able to control it.  She also informed us that there was a window from the kitchen into an alleyway at the back of the building.

We had brought a carpenter with us to gain entry and, once in, fit new locks to the flat.  He was used to the kind of work we did and could “look after himself”.  We decided to place an agent in the alleyway at the back with a copy of the “Injunction” whilst one agent would go to the door with the carpenter and the police and, if the Respondent did not open the door, to force entry.

In the meantime a  policeman had arrived.  He was all of 19/20 years of age, quite skinny, his helmet was too large and came down over his eyes.  He asked us what we intended to do and we told him and warned him of the dog.  He looked absolutely terrified, crossed to the other side of the road and said “I don’t do dogs”.  He immediately radioed through to the police station and spoke to “his sergeant” who told him he did not need to go in with us but simply remain nearby and call for back up if needed.

We decided to go ahead on our own.  One of our agents grabbed an anorak which the husband had thrown onto the lawn and stood by the door ready to throw it over the dog.  The wife was nearby as she felt she could get control of the dog if the husband was not in the flat.  Our agent knocked on the door.  The sound of a kettle boiling could be heard inside.  As our agent knocked on the door, the dog began to bark ferociously inside and appeared to be jumping at the door.  As nobody opened the door, the carpenter began to force his way through the locks.  Suddenly, the door sprang open and the dog bounded at our agent who tried to throw the anorak over it.  At the same moment, the wife screamed at the dog which stopped in its tracks and sat down at her command.

Unbeknown to our agents, when the Defendant heard our knocking he had decided to escape from the flat through the back window.  Our agent at the back served him with the Injunction as he did so and the Defendant ran off.  Our agent informed the young police officer that we had gained access.  He said “I understand this man is a bit of a drug dealer …..I think I’ll just turn the pad over”.  We waved him in and began to count 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 -1 … at which point the police officer came running out screaming “Oh my God! Dogs, snakes, this is like something out of Minder” and ran off across the road.  What he didn’t know as he entered the flat was that there was an 8 ft python draped over the door to the living room and he virtually ran straight into it.  It was the client’s pet.