Posted on 27.7.16 by Danielle Clements
Since Pokémon Go hit the UK, national headlines and social media have been full of news relating to the takeover of areas by people ‘hunting’ Pokémon. What was designed as an app to get young children out of their houses and into the fresh air chasing virtual animal characters, has become a rapidly growing sensation for children and adults.
Whilst the premise is great that it encourages children to be active and explore outdoors, what about the legal issues that arise when land owners privacy becomes invaded? When essential life saving services such as the NHS in government owned buildings become affected and disrupted? Last week Stoke Royal Hospital A&E department was affected by people turning up to ‘train their Pokémon’, causing disturbance to the extent that the hospital banned the game from the building entirely.
There were further reports of disruptive behaviour caused by game players entering restricted areas of a bus station in Stoke-on-Trent, disregarding all signage that it was private area and not safe for the general public, if those incidents weren’t concerning already, there have been incidents in the UK and across the world where people have had their homes targeted by crowds of strangers-visiting players due to the game leading them there.
So is this a case of “Pokémon told me to do it” or is there personal liability as a player?
What happens if you have someone on your property, for example, in your garden trying to catch a Pokémon?
To enter someone’s property or land without permission, is trespassing and the resident has the right to call the police. This would apply in this situation. What would be interesting is the liability aspect. Are the game creators responsible? Generally speaking, they have directed people to your land, so in essence yes. Legally however, it’s likely that they will have added a clause in the terms and conditions of the game that players don’t break laws to take part in completing the games activities, and players take responsibility for their actions whilst playing, to detach themselves from liability.
What if someone playing the game is loitering on the street outside your house, but not on your property?
Even if players were stood in the driveway or by someone’s gate, the resident of the property could feel intimidated. As a player, you need to be aware that your safety could be at risk, or you might be putting the safety of someone else at risk. While playing the app you need to be respectful and mindful of those around you and how they may be affected, make sure that you are playing sensibly and that your actions can’t come back to bite you later!
The overall premise of Pokémon has to be applauded. It gets people out and about, meeting up and interacting, albeit still with smartphones in hand. The app has been an extraordinary success, and no doubt a lucrative one for its creators, and that popularity means that its players are a potential target for the criminal element. However it is not without its flaws, there are reports of muggings and concerns over the use of the platform for child grooming and luring, accidents have happened and even in some serious circumstances players have been killed. Play safe and respectfully, and bear in mind that ultimately you are responsible for your actions whilst playing the game.
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