The Law of Nuisance and Overlooking – the Tate Gallery “Peeping” Litigation

View of an empty street

The Court of Appeal has recently passed down its judgement in the case of Fearn v Tate Gallery [2020]. The owners of luxury flats, adjacent to the Tate Gallery were the claimants. They applied for an injunction to prevent members of the public from looking directly into their flats from a viewing gallery constructed at the Tate Modern museum on London’s South Bank.

The claimants argued that that the viewing gallery was a nuisance and infringed their right to privacy under the 1998 Human Rights Act and sought an injunction to stop members of the public looking into their flats. The High Court originally dismissed the claim and they appealed.

The Court of Appeal has rejected the appeal. The Court confirmed that the flat owners could have taken remedial steps “expected of owners in this context” for example lowering solar blinds, installing privacy film or putting up net curtains or putting taller plants in the garden area. The Court of Appeal was not prepared to extend the law of nuisance and held the law of nuisance was not capable of protecting privacy rights from overlooking. Mere overlooking is not capable of giving rise to a cause of action in private nuisance.

The Court of Appeal made a very valid observation: “Even in modern times the law does not always provide a remedy for every annoyance to a neighbour, however considerable that annoyance may be”. The Court also refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. 

It is clear therefore that overlooking alone will not give rise to a cause of action in nuisance.

If you have any queries on neighbourly disputes or litigation in general, why not contact one of Alexander JLO’s expert litigation lawyers and see what we can do for you?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.