High Court allows service of injunction by text message in blackmail case
The High Court has made an order in the anonymised case of NPV v QEL & ZED  EWHC 703 (QB) allowing for service of an injunction by text message. The case involves claims for misuse of private information and harassment in respect of an alleged blackmail attempt.
The Claimant (“NPV”), a married man and successful businessman, embarked on a brief sexual relationship with the First Defendant (“QEL”), who worked as an employee of a business in a customer service role. During the course of their affair QEL lost her job and NPV gave her some financial support but her demands for money increased and came to a head when she threatened him with exposure unless he paid her a very substantial sum.
It was at around this stage that an unknown third party (“ZED”) got involved. ZED phoned NPV and said that he was a journalist and he had information about the affair and he was preparing to publish an article about it. NPV did not believe ZED was a journalist and suspected ZED was probably connected to QEL in some way and this was part of her plan to exert pressure on him to meet her financial demands.
After some negotiations an agreement was ostensibly reached that NPV would make a payment of £75,000 to ZED at a meeting that was to take place on 28 March 2018. In fact, it was NPV’s intention at that meeting to serve ZED with any injunction that may be granted by the court rather than handing over the money.
The hearing before Mr Justice Nicklin took place on 27 March 2018, the day before the meeting was due to take place. Mr Justice Nicklin granted the injunction sought by NPV on the basis that his claims for misuse of private information and/or harassment would probably succeed at trial.
The terms of the order made by Mr Justice Nicklin required ZED to disclose his identity and address for service. These are fairly typical requirements in cases where the threat to publish is being made by someone who is hiding behind anonymity.
In a rather more unusual move, Mr Justice Nicklin also permitted service of the injunction on ZED by text message on the basis that, if the meeting scheduled for the following day did not occur, this was in practice the only other means presently available by which NPV would be able to effect service on ZED.
This case is the most recent in a line of previous decisions in which the English courts have allowed service of legal documents through electronic means, including via Facebook in February 2012 and via Twitter as far back as October 2009.
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Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice.