The family Courts are now able to accept service of documents (like statements and applications) by email, thanks to the new change to the Family Procedures Rules
The Family Procedure (Amendment number 3) 2015
I’ll just point out that this amendment actually amends the Rules made in 2010, which the keen-eyed technophile will note was a time when email already actually existed. Email is not something that has only come into popular use in the last five years.
Why it wasn’t in the 2010 Rules is a complete mystery. I’m pretty sure that everyone involved in writing the Rules was actually aware of the existence of email at that time and were probably even sending emails from time to time.
The previous version of the Rules governing all of these things was drawn up in 1991, so you can understand why there wasn’t a specific provision for emails, (although that was the same year that the first email was sent from space, it wasn’t the common everyday form of communication that it became later that decade). But in 2010, providing a series of Rules for the way Courts would be managed that completely ignored the existence of emails looks not just backward but downright contrary.
But nevermind, in 2015, we now can lawfully file documents with the Court by email, thanks to these new Rules.
Well, don’t get too excited yet, because all that the Rules say is that it is now permissable for Courts to issue a Practice Direction saying that they will accept documents sent in by email.
4. After rule 5.4 (where to start proceedings) insert
Filing documents with and sending documents to the court by e-mail
5.5.(1) A practice direction may make provision for documents to be filed with or sent to the court by e-mail.
(2) Any such practice direction may
(a)provide that only particular categories of documents may be filed with or sent to the court by such means;
(b)provide that particular provisions only apply in specified courts or court offices; and
(c)specify the requirements that must be fulfilled for any document filed with or sent to the court by such means.
So until the Practice Direction comes out, we really shouldn’t send stuff to the Court by email.
[In reality, most Courts have been doing this for several years or at least we’ve all been sending them stuff by email in the hope that something happens the other end, but there was no provision in the Rules to allow them to do it, and an ornery Court could have told its users at any time that it didn’t accept service by email]
Sadly, there aren’t other provisions within the Family Procedure (amendment no 3) Rules 2015 that allow the Courts to recognise the existence of things that first became widely known in the mid 90s. So to this day, it is still impermissable to make a reference in Court to “Rachel out of Friends”, or that something “smells like teen spirit”, or that a person can play music on an “ipod”.
I was reading recently in Tom Holland’s marvellous book, Persian Fires, the story of how a Persian general Histiaeus in 499 BC who wanted to send messages but not have them intercepted, would shave the head of a slave, tattoo the message onto the slave’s head, wait for the slave’s hair to grow back, then send them to run to the intended recipient, who would know to shave the hair off and see the message. This method of filing documents on the Court was, I think, finally removed in the Family Procedure Rules 2010.