Supreme Court to rule on Tate Modern flats privacy battle

The owners of four flats in the Neo Bankside development on the capital’s South Bank took legal action against the gallery’s board of trustees in a bid to stop “hundreds of thousands of visitors” looking into their homes from the Tate’s viewing platform.

They applied for an injunction requiring the gallery to prevent members of the public observing their flats by “cordoning off” parts of the platform or “erecting screening”, to stop what they said was a “relentless” invasion of their privacy.

But after losing their case in the High Court and Court of Appeal, the residents took their case to the Supreme Court.

Following a hearing in December 2021, justices at the UK’s highest court are due to give their decision on Wednesday.

Tom Weekes KC, for the flat residents, previously argued that the Court of Appeal “misinterpreted” the law.

He said that under the court’s ruling, the Tate would be allowed to hold barbecues on the platform and “use the viewing gallery as a rubbish storage area emitting a terrible smell”.

“It could open its viewing gallery 24 hours a day and it could provide every visitor to the viewing gallery with a pair of binoculars.”

One of the flat owners previously said his family are “more or less constantly watched” from the viewing gallery and feel like they are in a zoo.

However, Guy Fetherstonhaugh KC, for the Tate, argued there “is no general right not to be overlooked in English law” and that the Court of Appeal’s ruling was correct.

Mr Fetherstonhaugh later added that the residents still have rights, and that if photographs are taken from the gallery “with the deliberate intention of garnering private information for publication”, they may be able to claim for misuse of private information.

The Supreme Court justices were asked to decide whether the Court of Appeal reached the wrong decision regarding the law on private nuisance.

They will also rule whether the court was wrong to conclude that public viewing from the gallery did not amount to a breach of the residents’ rights to respect for their private and family lives.

The judgment by Lord Reed, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Kitchin, Lord Sales and Lord Leggatt is due to be handed down at 9.45am.

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