The well known and highly respected National Union of Journalist member David Hoffman, who is represented by Chez Cotton, head of the Police Misconduct Department at leading civil rights law firm Bindmans LLP, has received £30,000 damages today from the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis.
Mr Hoffman was working in a professional capacity covering the G20 protests. Despite being out of the way and not interfering with any police operation, an inspector in full riot gear ran towards Mr Hoffman and hit him in the face with a shield, fracturing Mr Hoffman’s teeth. As well as paying compensation and the cost of the extensive dental work that has been required, the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis has also apologised to Mr Hoffman for the treatment he received and has confirmed the force’s recognition that journalists have a right to report freely.
Mr Hoffman’s solicitor Chez Cotton says:
“Journalists such as my client are critical in disseminating information into the wider public domain. Reporters and photojournalists play a significant role recording political unrest, political events, which includes recording protest and, if it arises, police wrong doing. That my client was assaulted by a police officer when carrying out this essential function, and brutally so, is shocking. Fortunately with photographic and film evidence of the incident and detailed testimony, Mr Hoffman has succeeded in holding the police to account. It is absolutely right that the Metropolitan Police Force has paid significant damages, given an apology and confirmed recognition and respect for a free press.”
The apology from the Metropolitan Police states:
“On 1 April 2009 well-respected social issues photographer David Hoffman was recording the G20 protests in the City of London. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) recognise that Mr Hoffman was entitled to report on that day but was caused injury by an MPS officer during the event, preventing him from doing so. The MPS confirms its recognition that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and that journalists have a right to report freely. The MPS apologise to Mr Hoffman for the treatment he received and have paid compensation.”
NUJ Legal Officer Roy Mincoff said:
“David Hoffman suffered very painful injuries as a result of this entirely unnecessary gratuitous and violent assault on him while properly and professionally going about his work. The role of journalists, including photographers, as the public watchdog, must be respected. It is one of the essential elements of a democratic society that journalists are entitled to inform the public, which itself is entitled to be informed. The NUJ has fought for this to be recognised, and is pleased that the Police has now accepted responsibility and properly compensated Mr Hoffman.”
Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary said:
“No journalist should be singled out by the police and the police service has no legal powers or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict photographer’s work. Journalists have a duty to record and report on public protests as well as the behaviour of the police. David’s case is a shocking example of police brutality and totally unacceptable. We believe that attacks on working journalists are attacks on democracy and on society’s ability to make informed decisions. The NUJ will continue to take action in support of our members when they are targeted by police.”
Background to the case
Mr Hoffman, a well respected social issues journalist and member of the National Union of Journalists, attended in a professional capacity to report on the G20 protests on 1 April 2009 in the City of London. Throughout the event Mr Hoffman was carrying professional equipment and had his Press Card clearly visible around his neck and was obviously a journalist.
Mr Hoffman took photographs at various sites throughout the day. At around 4 p.m. police in the Bank area stopped Mr Hoffman and others from moving forward and tried to push everyone back. However, due to the size of the crowd behind Mr Hoffman there was nowhere to move back to.
After about ten minutes the police intensified their action and started to push Mr Hoffman and the others in the crowd using their shields and batons aggressively, even though there was still nowhere to move back to. Mr Hoffman was standing beside a line of police officers and was for no reason pushed hard by an officer, to one side.
Mr Hoffman saw a space and was anxious to avoid any further trouble. He moved to one side so that he was further away from the police. Whilst doing this, Mr Hoffman was suddenly hit for no reason with considerable weight in the back by a policeman using his shield. This threw him violently into the back of a man in front of him.
Mr Hoffman moved even further away form the police and was partly shielded by some builders’ boards. He remained in this position, out of the way, and watched the events around him with his camera raised, ready to report. He was doing absolutely nothing wrong and was photographing without interfering in any police operation.
A few seconds later a heavily built inspector in full riot gear suddenly left the group of police officers he was with, ran directly towards Mr Hoffman, and deliberately hit him hard in the face with a shield. The shield made contact with great force, causing Mr Hoffman considerable pain and causing one of his cameras to fly round where it was knocked, causing damage to the equipment. Mr Hoffman was shocked and in pain from the shield hitting him and was thrown backwards.
It was subsequently confirmed that Mr Hoffman’s teeth had been fractured. Mr Hoffman instructed Chez Cotton of Bindmans LLP to act on his behalf and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. Proceedings were issued and the claim was settled shortly after the Particulars of Claim were served. The terms of settlement were agreed by Consent between the parties. The Central London County Court sealed the agreement at the beginning of December and the Commissioner of Police has today paid the damages in full.
Branch member wins £30,000 compensation for G20 assault
10th December, 2010