High Court awards landowner an injunction against known and unknown "urbexers"

United Kingdom

Along with professional squatting, protests and illegal raves, urban exploration, being the exploration of man-made structures and taking and sharing a photographic record of the same, is a growing modern day trespass faced by landowners.

In a recently reported decision of the High Court given in February, the Claimants were successful in their application for an interim injunction against both identified and unidentified “urbexers” who had climbed buildings and cranes on construction sites at the Canary Wharf estate. The urbexers posted pictures and videos on social media as a record of their activities.

The Claimants applied for an injunction restraining trespass and orders preventing the existing footage from being further published and requiring it to be delivered up to the Claimants.

The High Court held that:

  • A landowner is entitled to an injunction to restrain trespass, whether or not the trespass causes damage;    
  • Absent evidence of some prospect that the defendant might have a right to do what the claimant seeks to restrain, provided the claimant establishes a significant risk of trespass, an interim injunction will usually, if not invariably, be justified;

  • Difficulties with enforcement do not justify the refusal of an injunction; and    
  • It is possible for the injunction to be granted against Persons Unknown, provided the Court is satisfied there is a significant risk of others who are at present unidentified carrying out the offending conduct.

As the urban exploring trend continues to grow, landowners can take some comfort from the pragmatic approach of the High Court to modern day trespass in recent cases, particularly in light of the fact that the Court made its order just over one week from the date of the Claimants’ application.

However, landowners are reminded that injunctions are a discretionary remedy and if successful, even in circumstances where a costs order is made against known trespassers, the chances of costs recovery are likely to be slim. Landowners are therefore well advised to keep unoccupied premises as secure as possible to mitigate against the risk of trespass.

Canary Wharf Investments v Brewer [2018] EWHC 1760 (QB) (23 February 2018) (Warby J)