CPR Service - Completing a Certificate of Service under the Civil Procedure Rules

Introduction - what is service?

When you send or deliver a formal document to someone else, in a case subject to the Civil Procedure Rules, this is called service. That might sound like an odd word to use but it has the same root as the words service and serve in the game of tennis.

There are a number a different ways of serving a party and not all methods are valid in all circumstances. The main methods of service are:

  • First Class post
  • Hand delivery to an address
  • personal service
  • Email 

Most of the above four methods are self-explanatory but what personal service means and the difference between that and hand delivery to an address, needs some explanation. Personal service is where you hand over the document to the party who is standing (or sitting) in front of you and they are aware - normally because you tell them - that what you are handing over is legal documents which require their attention in connection with proceedings. It is called personal service not because you personally are doing it (you could get a process server to carry out personal service for you) but because the party being served is actually in front of you in person when you hand the documents over to them. If it is an organisation (such as a limited company or a partnership) which is a party in the case and you are serving documents on that organisation then it is "personal service" only if the person you hand the documents to is a director, partner or a person in a senior position in the organisation. If the person you are serving refuses to put out their hand and take the documents from you, you can simply leave the documents in front of them saying that they are legal documents which require their attention in connection with proceedings. Then you can just walk away.

If you are hand delivering to an address, you can put the document, in an envelope addressed to the person you are serving, through the letter box at that address. You may find that when you go to deliver a document at an address you end up handing it to someone at that address. For example a householder may see you walking up the drive and open the door before you have put the document in the letter box, or, if you are delivering to a business, there may be a reception which seems the obvious place to hand over the envelope. If you do hand over the envelope containing the document to someone, whether that can count as personal service as well as hand delivery to an address depends on who the person is. If the person you hand the document to is actually the party you are intending to serve then that counts as personal service if you make clear that it is a legal document which requires their attention in connection with proceedings (it will also be hand delivering to an address), but if not then it is only hand delivery to an address. If two people living at the same address are both parties - for example a husband and wife - and you have two envelopes, one addressed to each party, then if only the husband opens the door and you hand him both envelopes making clear that they each contain legal documents which require the addressee's attention in connection with proceedings, that would be personal service on the husband of the envelope addressed to the husband (as well as hand delivering to an address) but the envelope addressed to the wife would not have been personally served but only hand delivered to an address. If you hand deliver a document by handing it in an envelope to the person manning the reception desk of an organisation, that would simply be hand delivering to an address. It could not be personal service except in the unlikely event that the person manning reception is actually, say, the managing director of the organisation.     

Filling in a Certificate of Service after you have carried out service

A Certificate of Service is a form which you fill in to confirm to the court - certify - that you have served a particular document or documents on a particular person (or organisation) by a particular method on a particular day. The Certificate of Service form most frequently used in cases subject to the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) can be found here https://formfinder.hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/n215-eng.pdf  

Case Details
In the top right hand corner of form N215 there are boxes to be filled in to identify which court case it is. You fill in the name of the court (e.g. High Court of Justice, County Court, etc.) the case number, and the names of all the parties in the case. You fill in here the names of all the parties in the case (not just the party you have served the documents on) just to identify which court case it is. 

What documents did you serve?
List in the box the names of the documents served, such as Claim Form, Particulars of Claim, Application Notice, etc. 

On whom did you serve?
Give the full name of the party you served the documents on. You can only specify one name on the form. If you have served a copy of a document on one party, and also served a copy on another party at the same time (e.g. in two envelopes one addressed to a husband and one addressed to a wife both put through the letter box of the house where they both live) then you still need to fill in two separate Certificates of Service, one for each party.  

If the party you served is an organisation normally you would give here just the full name of the organisation - e.g. Jones and Co Ltd  not the name of the person within the organisation you have been dealing with. However if, instead of posting the documents to the organisation or to their solicitor (or e.g. hand delivering them through a letterbox) you actually handed the documents to a particular partner or other person in a senior position in the organisation, you should write their name and position as well - e.g. Phillip Jones, Managing Director of Jones and Co Ltd.  


How did you serve the documents?
Tick the box to indicate how you served the documents and complete the address box to the right with the address where service was effected. 

If you tick the box which says by first class post or other service which provides for delivery on the next business day make sure that you enter the name and address in the address box on the right exactly as it is on the envelope when you post it.

If you tick the box which says by delivering to or leaving at a permitted place make sure that you enter, in the address box on the right, the exact address of the place where you hand delivered the documents and the name on the envelope/package. You must also enter the time of delivery. There is no specific place on the form for you to put the time of delivery but the rules require you to certify the time, which can be written in some convenient place - for example in the address box after entering the address you could add "time of delivery...." 

Sometimes the purpose of the tick-box which says by personally handing it to or leaving it with... is misunderstoodThis tick-box is only to be used if you actually handed the documents to the party themselves. This is called "personal service" and you fill in the time you handed over the documents, and, in the larger box below the tick-box, the name of the actual person you handed the documents to, and, in the address box on the right, the place where you were when you handed over the documents.

If what you did was personally handing it to or leaving it with the party and you happened to be at a permitted place at the time then you can choose which box to tick. If, under the court rules, personal service is not valid then you will tick the by delivering to or leaving at a permitted place box. On the other hand if, under the court rules, personal service is required, or at least permitted, then you will tick the personally handing it to or leaving it with box. 

If you sent the documents by email, tick the box which says by other electronic means, fill in the time you sent the email, put the word Email in the larger box below, and enter the email address which you sent the documents to in the address box on the right.   

On what day did you serve?
Fill in the date when you served the documents - e.g. the date when you put them in the post box, or hand-delivered them, or sent them by email.

The date of service is 
Depending how you served the document, and what type of document it was, the official deemed date of service may be the same day or a day or so later. The notes on the second page of the N215 form explain how to work out the deemed date of service which you should fill in next to The date of service is. For some examples of when a document is deemed served see www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/part06/pd_part06a#10.1

I believe that the facts stated in this certificate are true
The certificate of service is signed by you because you are the person who put the documents in the envelope and put the envelope in the Royal Mail post box (or sent the email, or put the documents in an envelope through a house or office letterbox, or personally gave the documents to a named person, etc.) who knows that the details are true. Print your name in the Full Name box and sign in the box underneath. The inappropriate words in brackets underneath the signature should be crossed out. The words (solicitor) and (litigation friend) should always be crossed out. If you are the Claimant, cross out (Defendant). If you are the Defendant, cross out (Claimant). 

Note 1: The information above is purely concerned with how to fill in the Certificate of Service form to accurately describe what you have done. Whether what has been done is sufficient to constitute valid service under the rules, in a particular case, is a different question - for example if you are posting the address must be a permitted place,  email service may only be valid in certain circumstances, and sometimes personal service is mandatory, sometimes it is valid but not mandatory, and sometimes it is not valid.

Note 2: The person who signs the certificate of service has to have personal knowledge of all the details filled in on the certificate - e.g. not just that a package was delivered where, when and how but what documents were in the package. If you have arranged for a professional process server to serve the documents on your behalf, then the process server will fill in and sign a certificate of service and give it to you. You would normally give the documents to the process server and the process server would put them in an envelope before delivering them. You could provide the process server with an addressed envelope but the process server has to see the documents being put in the envelope so that the process server can then fill in and sign a certificate of service which confirms what documents were served. The same applies if you ask a friend to serve the documents - they have to see the documents being put in the envelope so that they can then fill in and sign the certificate of service. When your friend (or a process server) signs the certificate of service they should cross out the words (solicitor) and (litigation friend) below the signature and write "Claimant's agent" if you are the Claimant or "Defendant's agent" if you are the Defendant.

Note 3: The purpose of a certificate of service is to certify to the court that you have served a particular document on a particular party on a particular date by a particular method. You do not need to send the certificate of service to the party you have served - they know they have been served with the document!   


This information page is designed to be used only by clients of John Antell who have entered into an agreement for the provision of legal services. The information in it is necessarily of a general nature and is intended to be used only in conjunction with specific advice to the individual client about the individual case. The rules governing service of documents, as interpreted by appeal court decisions which set precedents, are notoriously complex and this information page should not be used by, or relied on, by anyone else. 

This page was lasted updated in October 2018          Disclaimer