“French Spider-Man” banned from climbing buildings in Britain

Alain Robert, dubbed the French Spiderman, reflected in a window as he scales the outside of the Heron Tower in London. Picture: @RazlilNicky/Twitter/PA Wire .
Alain Robert, dubbed the French Spiderman, reflected in a window as he scales the outside of the Heron Tower in London. Picture: @RazlilNicky/Twitter/PA Wire .
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A daredevil climber dubbed the “French Spider-Man” who scaled the 754ft (230m) Heron Tower without safety equipment has been banned from climbing buildings in Britain.

Frenchman Alain Robert, 56, climbed the skyscraper in the City yesterday but was arrested the moment he reached the top, which took just over half an hour.

Daredevil climber Alain Robert, dubbed the French Spiderman, scales the outside of the Heron Tower in London. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Daredevil climber Alain Robert, dubbed the French Spiderman, scales the outside of the Heron Tower in London. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Robert, who is just 5ft 5in talls and weighs 7st 12lb (50kg), admitted a charge of causing a public nuisance at City of London Magistrates Court today after he spent last night behind bars.

He was also handed a 20-week jail term, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay £5,500 compensation to the City of London police.

The commercial cost of the disruption linked to the stunt, which prompted a “large scale” emergency service response, was estimated to be £11,000.

But Robert’s solicitor said he found the climb “very easy” and there was no risk he would fall onto onlooker.

The climb came after Robert scaled London’s Lloyd’s building, in 2004 and 2009, but went unpunished.

Robert, who appeared in the dock wearing a grey custody sweatshirt, earned the nickname “the French Spider-Man” for his solo ascents without safety gear of huge skyscrapers across the globe.

Chair of the bench Edward McMullan said: “There was considerable disruption to the emergency services in particular, and also disruption to the owners and occupants of the building.

“The aggravating features of this offence are that you didn’t seek permission, there was no real attempt to minimise disruption and you were fully aware from your previous experience of climbing the Lloyd’s building this was an offence.”

He said there was also a “considerable amount of planning”.

Imposing a restraining order Mr McMullan added: “It will prohibit you from climbing up or down the outside of any building in the UK until further notice.”

He was also told to pay £200 in costs.

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Robert appeared stressed throughout the hearing, which lasted more than an hour, and placed his fingers to his temples on several occasions.

He spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth and French nationality.

Prosecutor Malachy Pakenham said police were first called to the tower at 1.25pm and the first officer arrived five minutes later, when Robert was “about 100ft up.”

He said: “The defendant took about half an hour to actually reach the top of the building and at 2pm he acknowledged the presence of police on top of the roof.

“He was arrested at 2.07pm on suspicion of causing a public nuisance and he said to the officer, ‘my passport is here and my lawyer’s number is here’.”

Robert then “smiled and said nothing” when a policeman asked if the stunt was linked to a logo on his shirt.

He wore a white jersey emblazoned with “Dead Man’s Fingers”, a rum brand, during the climb.

The building’s general manager, Haydn Owen, said in a statement read to the court: “At 1.20pm I could see large crowds of people gathering outside the building. I immediately went outside to investigate this.

“I got outside I could see a male on the south east corner of the exterior of the building and he had free-climbed approximately ten floors.”

Nine building staff, including security, rushed outside to urge a growing crowd to back away from the building.

Mr Pakenham said: “Police then arrived, they had to close a loading bay that was part of the building that apparently cost £320.

“They then set up an operation to deal with the person on the building.”

Mr Owen predicted the cost of a health and safety audit and cancelled meetings was £2,000.

Public relations enquiries linked to the climb were said to cost £2,000.

Other costs included more than £3,000 for cleaning and safety inspections.

Mr Pakenham said: “The whole figure was an estimated £11,000.

“If he fell off the building he could effectively land on people who were below.”

Robert then answered no comment when quizzed at a police station.

The prosecutor added: “He was also asked about an incident in 2009 when he also climbed a building in the City of London and police decided on that occasion to take no further action.”

Representing Robert, Adeela Khan said he did not expect “he would cause the amount of distraction that appears to have been caused.”

She said: “He’s extremely remorseful there was such a significant disruption and that was not his intention.

“The location he chose to climb on the building, he specifically chose to climb from what he described as a small road to minimise disruption.”

She described the estimated £11,000 cost as “generous”, adding: “He is able to pay £5,500 today if he were to be sentenced or given a sentence that would allow him to leave the court today.

“He has been climbing for 44 years, he’s extremely experienced climber, he’s one of the best in the world.

“He described this as a very easy climb. He perceived the risk to be either non-existent or very minimal.”

Asked whether there was a “commercial element” to the climb, Miss Khan said: “Yes.”

She said: “He does climb professionally and that’s how he makes a living but he also climbs to inspire other people who are watching him.”

In 2011 Robert climbed the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is 2,717ft (828m) tall.

He has also climbed several other buildings in London, including the 801ft One Canada Square building in Canary Wharf.

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