Page last updated at 08:07 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Legal papers served via Facebook

Reflected Facebook logo
The documents were sent via a private email service on Facebook

An Australian couple have been served with legal documents via the popular social networking site Facebook.

Mark McCormack, a lawyer in Canberra, persuaded a court to allow him to use the unusual method after other attempts to reach them failed.

The couple's home is being repossessed after they reportedly missed payments on a loan of over A$100,000 ($67,000; 44,000).

It is believed to be the first time Facebook has been used in this way.


Mr McCormack says he resorted to Facebook to trace the couple after unsuccessful attempts to contact them at their home address and via email, and they failed to attend a court appearance on 3 October.

He found the woman's page, and used details listed there such as her date of birth to argue in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court that she was the person in question. Her partner was listed as one of her "friends".

In granting permission to use the social networking site, the judge stipulated that the papers be sent via a private email so that other people visiting the page could not read their contents.

"It's somewhat novel, however we do see it as a valid method of bringing the matter to the attention of a defendant," Mr McCormack said.

Text message

He said he thought courts would continue to use Facebook, as long as they were sure it was reasonably likely to come to the attention of those concerned.

In the past, the Australian courts have granted permission for people to be served with legally binding papers via email or even text message.

But this is the first time they have allowed the use of Facebook, says the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney.

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