Tuesday, December 07, 2010

JOURNALIST RECEIVES £30,000 COMPENSATION FROM MET POLICE AFTER BEING STRUCK IN FACE WITH SHIELD DURING G20 PROTESTS

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."

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary says:
"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."

NUJ Legal Officer Roy Mincoff says:
"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."

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.

Ends
Please click on the links below to view photograph of the incident:
Notes for editors
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Counsel: Alison MacDonald of Matrix Chambers
Bindmans LLP:
Bindmans LLP is a highly successful law firm offering a wide range of expert legal
services. We have a reputation for excellence and for being at the cutting edge of
legal developments - particularly in relation to issues around human rights,
discrimination and public authorities' powers. Many of our lawyers are nationally
recognised as leading experts in their fields. Bindmans LLP continues to be ranked
by the key legal directories as one of the top firms in London and the UK for its
specialist areas. We are known for achieving excellent results for clients, often in
groundbreaking areas of law.
Bindmans LLP
275 Gray's Inn Road
London WC1X 8QB
Tel: 020 7833 4433
Web: www.bindmans.com
Email: info@bindmans.com



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