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Social media used in bankruptcy cases

A Lancashire expert in litigation is warning that social media is being increasingly used to summon debtors to court in bankruptcy hearings.

Tom Smith, solicitor in the Litigation team at Lancashire law firm Napthens, highlights a number of recent cases which have seen websites like Facebook and Twitter used to serve proceedings and to notify a debtor that court orders have been made.

In the most recent case, a debtor had proved difficult to contact, so a county court judge in Tunbridge Wells decided that the debtor was a regular user of his Facebook account and granted leave that the applicant could use social media to inform him of the terms of the order.

This was understood to be the first time that social media had been used by the courts in insolvency proceedings in England and Wales.

In previous cases, an injunction was served against an anonymous Twitter user in 2009 by sending a direct message, and a court order was served on a defendant via their Facebook page in 2011.

Tom Smith of Napthens said: “This shows that the Courts are willing to adopt a more flexible approach to service of court proceeding and notification of court orders and to embrace new technology.

“It also means that we as litigators have more tools in our lockers to serve defendants who are deliberately trying to avoid being served with court papers, particularly in relation to insolvency proceedings and injunctions.

“This can be a real issue, but if it can be shown that social media accounts are used regularly, the courts have decided they are a valid form of communication. This will benefit the applicants in a case and potentially speed up proceedings.”