Anti Climb Spikes and the Law

Posted by Tony Goldstone on

Perimeter security, around our homes, workplaces, schools and elsewhere, is vitally important. But keeping burglars out, preventing vandalism and protecting our properties from unwanted intruders can be extremely challenging. People often choose to raise the height of their perimeter boundaries and some consider installing wall spikes or fence spikes as anti climb deterrents. In this post we look at the legal requirements and restrictions that apply when using anti climb fence and wall spikes.

United Kingdom Legal Requirements

The relevant UK legislation includes the 1957 Occupiers’ Liability Act, the Occupiers Liability Act 1984  and the Highways Act 1980

The Occupiers Liability legislation makes the ‘duty of care’ responsibilities of property occupiers very clear. And the Highways Act states that the local highway authority has a duty to ensure the safe use of the public highway. Section 164 of this act deals with what are described as ‘injurious toppings’, which includes barbed wire or anything with spikes or jagged protrusions.

In the UK the maximum height allowed for perimeter fences, walls and hedges is 2 metres and perimeters that adjoin public highways or footpaths mustn’t be higher than 1 metre. Anything higher than this requires planning permission from the local authority. As a rule, its always good practice to check with local authorities before making any changes to boundary walls, fences or hedges.

Occupier’s liability means that they have a duty to ensure that anyone coming onto their property is safe and this includes trespassers and criminal intruders. Legislation means that if someone was to injure themselves or damage their clothing on installed anti climb perimeter security spikes then the occupier is likely to be liable for damages.

Therefore, in the UK, anti climb devices are generally not installed on perimeters which are lower than 2 metres in height. This helps ensure that only those who attempt to scale the boundary wall or fence will ever come into contact with the anti climb protection. Most importantly, warning signage must be prominently presented to let people know that anti climb spikes, anti climb paint or another form of anti climb barrier is in place. These signs are required to be displayed at intervals not exceeding 3 metres along the length of the wall or fence upon which the anti climb spikes or devices have been installed. 

Warning signage demonstrates that the occupier is taking their duty of care responsibility seriously. If someone was to injure themselves or damage their clothing on the installed anti climb barrier they would not have grounds to make a claim because they were adequately warned of the danger.

United States Legal Requirements

In the USA homeowners associations and municipal laws generally prohibit the use of sharp fence spikes, barbed wire and razor wire. Here’s an example of restrictions derived from one municipal code document.

Barbed wire and razor wire fencing is prohibited in residential zoning districts or adjacent to public rights-of-way in commercial and industrial zoning districts. All barbed wire, razor wire, or other sharp pointed material may only be used in the construction of a fence if it is at least seven (7) feet above ground level and not visible from any adjacent public street.

As noted, anti climb spikes can only be used in this municipality on fencing that’s in excess of 7 feet above the ground and mustn’t be visible from any adjacent public street. Specific regional requirements regarding what’s prohibited in residential and commercial zoning districts should always be determined before installing any form of anti climb protection as these can vary enormously.

Its worth noting that, in the USA, the presentation of warning signage may not be considered adequate in some states. If someone was to injure themselves on an anti intruder device the occupier might be accused of purposely installing and maintaining a trap that was intended to cause injury, regardless of the warnings they provided. It is therefore strongly recommended that clarification is derived before installing any spiked fence or wall toppers.

Non Harmful Anti Climb Protection

The safest anti climb option, by far, is to use only non aggressive, non harmful anti climb barriers.

Anti climb paint is a great example. This form of slippery paint simply doesn’t set hard like regular paint. It remains greasy and slippery making it almost impossible to gain a foothold or handhold on any surface where its applied. It must be noted that, since it doesn’t set, the paint can come off onto peoples clothes and hands, so its always recommended that anti climb paint is only applied above a height of around 2 metres or 7 feet. Also, wherever anti climb paint is used prominently displayed warning signage is always a good idea.

anti climb paint
Anti Climb Paint and Warning Signage

Anti climb paint is widely used because its safe, easy to apply, highly effective and very low cost. Its typically used on perimeter walls as well as posts and poles that can sometimes attract unwelcome climbers.

Another highly effective, harmless, non-aggressive anti climb device is Roller Barrier. This simple system introduces an unstable, rotating barrier which is too large in diameter to be gripped by human hands. The fact that this system is totally harmless means it can be deployed in areas where spikes and anti climb paint are completely out of the question. For example, protecting air conditioning and ventilation equipment on the outside of buildings from being damaged by climbers and protecting flat rooftops around schools and youth establishments.

Natural Barriers

A natural perimeter security option to consider is growing spiky, thorny and dense plants which can make excellent anti intruder barriers. Rose plants, Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Holly are excellent examples. In the UK the use of thorny plants for perimeter security isn’t covered by any of the legislation but it must always be ensured that hedging doesn’t intrude on public highways or footpaths and doesn’t exceed height restrictions.

Although strategically planted thorny, spiky, bushes can create an effective barrier that will deter intruders it must be noted that if someone was to injure themselves on your plants or experience damage to their clothing then you may face a claim for damages. As for other forms of perimeter security, its always worth consulting your local authorities for clarification, especially in the USA where laws and restrictions can vary enormously from state to state.