Social networking site Facebook is coming in handy as a cunning legal tool, say lawyers.

Late in February a New Zealand judge's decision to approve the use of Facebook to serve court papers on a man who skipped the country after allegedly taking NZ$241 000 from his former employees' accounts, made headlines.

News reports quoted New Zealand lawyers as saying this had "opened the legal floodgates".

A Wellington lawyer, Barbara Buckett, was quoted in the Dominion Post newspaper as saying: "Who would have thought Facebook would become part of the legal process?"

Buckett was commenting after an associate judge approved serving court papers through Facebook at a hearing in the Wellington High Court.

He was told that a company, Axe Market Garden, had difficulty serving papers on Craig Axe, who was said to be living in Britain.

Facebook - - launched in 2004, has more than 140 million users worldwide.

Ronald Bobroff, a member of the Law Society of South Africa, said the New Zealand judgement had made things "very interesting".

"This could happen in South Africa because the law makes provisions for newspapers and even a notice board in the foyer of the court to be used to serve a notice when it's difficult to track down Joe Soap."

He said the questions that were asked were "is it likely to come to the attention of Joe Soap, or whether his friends or family will see it?".

Facebook is also being used to fight crime in this country.

ICT Crime Watch encourages South Africans to report crimes online.

It was set up by information technology company Axiz and it has a forensic team that works with the police.

There have been a number of other incidents around the world where Facebook has come in handy when dealing with various crimes.

According to a legal Internet website, Australian police managed to arrest a burglar after they posted on Facebook security camera images of him trying to break into a safe.

The suspect removed his balaclava after he got too hot, providing a good photo opportunity for the security camera and they posted footage on their own Facebook site.

The man was recognised and arrested the next day.

In the US, Facebook has been used to identify underage drinkers and parole violaters who posted their own photos on the popular site.