Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t complain about lack of privacy.

The Tate Modern Nuisance & Privacy Case

Five occupants of a modern block of flats which are located very close to the extension of the Tate Modern Art Gallery in Southwark brought a case against Tate Modern under the Human Rights Act asserting that their right to privacy was being breached by the Tate and that they were suffering from a nuisance.  Both parts of claim related to the same facts.

The occupiers of Neo Bankside (the block) alleged that their privacy was being breached by visitors to the Tate standing on a viewing gallery staring into their flats, taking photographs, waving and, on
occasions, making obscene gestures towards the occupiers.  The distance between the viewing gallery and the flats is only 34 meters at the closest point.

There is no doubt that the occupiers privacy has been intruded upon. The long and the short of the judgment is that bearing in mind the locale (central London next to a world famous art gallery) there is nothing objectionable about the Tate running a viewing gallery in this manner.   In short if you choose to live in a block of flats made principally of glass in this area you can not expect the same level of privacy as you might in other quieter more private locations. Nor in as such viewing activity in this area a nuisance.

The Judge went on to suggest that the occupiers of Neo Bankside could reduce the  intrusions themselves if they wished to.

“Susceptibilities and tastes differ, and in recognition of the fact that privacy might sometimes require to be enhanced it has become acceptable to expect those wishing to enhance it to protect their own interests. I refer, for example, to net curtains.”

I can’t help thinking that buying net curtains would have been a much cheaper option than bringing this case and paying both sides’ legal costs.

The case does not raise any new issues of law but is an example of the laws of nuisance and privacy being applied in a novel setting.  Issues of location, and the nature of the area concerned have long been recognised as relevant factors in nuisance cases.

Here is the full link to the judgment.