The recent craze for so-called ‘urban exploring’ – in which trespassers put their lives in jeopardy by scaling iconic buildings – poses a particular problem for commercial property owners. However, as a High Court case showed, judges are alert to the issue and are far from impotent in dealing with it.
Lawyers representing the owners of a well-known building took action against three prolific urban explorers who had become Internet celebrities, with millions of social media subscribers, by posting videos of their exploits online. Due to its shape and structure, the building was an obvious target and similar activities on other sites had already claimed the lives of a number of young people.
In granting an interim injunction which forbade the trio from entering any part of the building, and in particular from climbing on the interior or exterior of its roof, the Court found that they had trespassed, or sought to trespass, on the site in a manner which was inherently dangerous to themselves and others. The order was necessary to protect the owners’ private property rights.
The owners argued that imitators were encouraged by Internet posts publicising the trio’s activities. However, the Court declined to order their removal from the Internet on the basis that such an order would impinge upon the trio’s freedom of expression rights. Such rights were not unqualified, but there was no justification for such an order being made at an interim stage of the proceedings.