The Last Straw

By | 6th October 2009

I remember a time when law firms were at pains to make it clear that they did not accept service of proceedings by fax unless specific arrangements had been made in advance. Doubtless many firms still carry the necessary words as part of their email signature and/or on their notepaper.

Now, suddenly, there is a new problem!!

On 1st October 2009, the High Court jumped into the “Tweetosphere” (is there such a word, after Blogosphere?) by agreeing to allow a claimant to serve an injunction via Twitter.

Mr Justice Lewison agreed with Matthew Richardson instructed by Griffin Law that Twitter was the best way to reach the person behind whose anonymous writer was said to be impersonating Donal Blaney. Richardson said that the ruling had widespread implications for identity theft on the internet. A spokesman from Strathclyde University called it a landmark decision.

Although the details are not clear (and at first there was some suggestion that the court had authorised the issue of a writ(sic)/injunction via Twitter) it seems that the court authorised the injunction to be served via Twitter and because of the 140 character limit on Tweets there was a link to a webpage where the full content of the court order was set out.

All this, on the same day that the eleven new Supreme Court Justices were sworn in before enjoying the Lord Chancellor’s Breakfast which traditionally starts the legal year. Readers will be delighted to remember that the Lord Chancellor has not yet been abolished despite the best efforts of Tony Blair and Lord Falconer and despite the fact that the present if not final incumbent is plain Mr Straw.

Last Straw or not, this development is certainly a first and coming, as it did, on the very day that the Supreme Court opened for business, it is an early and powerful endorsement of the way the law, so often called an ass, can be at the cutting edge of technology.

The decision establishes the principle that anonymity on the internet is not to be used as a cloak to hide the identity of people who break the law.

Who said lawyers did not need to understand the basics of technology? Whoever it was, don’t you believe it!!