Shard freeclimber faces court case over breach of injunction

Amy Walker
Photograph: Artist/The Guardian

The freeclimber who scaled the Shard in July is being taken to court by the skyscraper’s owners for breaching an injunction.

George King, 20, who climbed the 72-storey building without ropes or suction cups, will appear at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Monday.

Although a criminal charge for public nuisance has been dropped against King, he could face a fine or a short prison sentence if the civil proceedings turn out in Teighmore Ltd’s favour.

The former personal trainer admitted he had been aware of an injunction that prevented anyone from climbing the Shard prior to his quest.

He claimed: “It’s outrageous to incarcerate someone simply for the expression of their passion and doing a victimless crime.”

The injunction on climbing the Shard was put in place in 2018 to prevent Ian Bone, a veteran campaigner and founder of the anarchist newspaper Class War, from leading a protest about the number of empty luxury apartments within the building.

In the same year, the Shard secured a high court injunction against Alain Robert, the urban climber nicknamed the French Spiderman to stop him from climbing the building.

Related: 'Truly profound': Shard climber describes reaching top of UK's tallest tower

King added that as he scaled the tallest building in Europe, he had seen a sign on a door of the viewing deck which stated going beyond that point would be in breach of the court order.

However, King said he was concerned about the case against him as the lack of other people being prosecuted for breaching the injunction meant there was no precedent set for the harshness of any potential punishment. “I’ll just have to take what comes,” he added.

The Crown Prosecution Service has previously refused to comment on the legal status of climbing high-rise structures such as cranes and skyscrapers, but there are other ways to prosecute people for taking such risks.

In 2016, four climbers from Suffolk were charged with the offence of threatening behaviour for causing alarm and distress to residents in Lowestoft.

At the time, a spokesperson for the force said they feared the men “may have fallen and not only killed themselves but innocent passersby on the ground.”

When King scaled the 310-metre (1,017ft) building on 8 July, he nearly slipped when generators on the building began pumping dust on to the metal bars he was climbing.

He was met by officers from the Metropolitan police after reaching the Shard’s summit in about 45 minutes, but was not arrested.

The unaided climb was the first the then 19-year-old, who frequently posts Instagram videos of himself climbing cranes, had attempted on a high-rise building. But King has said he will not be attempting any similar feats in the UK.

He added that life had been “pretty crazy” since news of his climb blew up and that he had quit his job as a personal trainer at a gym.

So far, said King, he has accepted a book deal with HarperCollins, begun filming for a documentary about the event and has been in talks to host his own TV series – on top of interest from two brands who have asked him to promote their merchandise.

King’s manager Bryan Yeubrey, who also manages Robert, suggested the Shard’s owners should rescind their complaint.

The Shard’s management team have been contacted for comment.