Praise for the union after photographer wins nine year Swiss legal battle

2nd January, 2013

Press photographers picket the Swiss Embassy in London in 2003 in protest at the injuries sustained by colleague Guy Smallman at the Geneva G8 Summit demonstrations.

Press photographers picket the Swiss Embassy in London in 2003 in protest at the injuries sustained by colleague Guy Smallman at the Geneva G8 Summit demonstrations.

LPB member Guy Smallman has praised the NUJ for its support throughout nine years of a legal battle for compensation for injuries he received at the hands of Swiss police whilst covering a G8 protest in Geneva in June 2003.

The photographer, who was hospitalised for three weeks after a stun grenade blew a hole the size of a tennis ball in the back of his leg, has been awarded 75,000 Swiss Francs by the State of Geneva, and will be left with £38,000 after paying legal fees.

“This would never have been possible without the help of my trade union and I would like to thank the National Union of Journalists for their enduring support, solidarity and assistance.”

At the time of the protest, Guy was a committee member of the NUJ London Freelance Branch. Fellow branch members, together with the then General Secretary Jeremy Dear and Freelance Organiser John Toner, immediately organised help from the NUJ’s sister union in Switzerland, found a lawyer, and unearthed a bilateral agreement between Switzerland and UK which covered much of Guy’s hospital treatment. A protest was called at the Swiss Embassy and media outlets in the UK were kept up to date with the incident to increase pressure on the Swiss government. Arrangements were made for Guy’s return home, and hardship payments from the NUJ covered his basic utility bills during the months of recovery.

Thompsons Solicitors were instructed to oversee the legal arrangements and check that everything was in place (including Swiss legal Aid) to make a claim for damages via a Swiss lawyer. The legal process was long and complex, with a success in the initial court hearing, a reversal on appeal by the State of Geneva, and a final successful appeal to the Swiss Federal Court, which ruled in Guy’s favour in 2009. It has taken a further three years to agree the settlement and costs.

It’s a case that illustrates just how important it is for journalists, whether photographers, videographers or writers, to have the collective strength of the union behind them. According to Guy, for him this was was crucial: “There is no other professional association that could have given me this level of support. Had I not been an NUJ member I would probably have left the only job I have ever enjoyed. Instead I have remained a photojournalist and worked all over the world.”

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