A photographer badly injured by a police stun grenade in Switzerland has received almost £40,000 in compensation by the State of Geneva after a nine-year legal battle.
Gary Smallman was covering the G8 protests in Geneva on 2 June 2003 for a media agency when police reportedly charge at demonstrators.
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As Smallman ran away from a police unit he was hit by a flash bang grenade, blowing a hole the size of a tennis ball into the back of his left leg.
The National Union of Journalists said “police stood over him as he lay bleeding in the street and they did not offer any first aid”.
After the incident, which was captured on camera, Smallman was taken for an operation on his leg and remained in hospital for almost three weeks.
Smallman, an NUJ member, has now been awarded compensation of 75,000 Swiss Francs by the State of Geneva. After paying the legal fees, he will have just under £40,000 in compensation.
The NUJ said:
On hearing what had happened, the NUJ London Freelance Branch, NUJ General Secretary and NUJ Freelance official took immediate action: the NUJ contacted its sister union in Switzerland and found appropriate legal representation. The NUJ also organised a campaign that included a protest outside the Swiss Embassy in London and meetings with the Swiss Ambassador to the UK.
NUJ members living in Geneva visited Guy in hospital and the branch arranged Guy’s flight home. Upon arrival at Gatwick a car had been arranged by the branch to take Guy straight to his GP to obtain the crucial after care needed and during Guy’s time away from work, the NUJ hardship payments paid for his basic utility bills.
In 2009 a panel of five judges ruled 3-2 in Guy’s favour and Guy won his case. Since 2009 Guy’s lawyer has been in negotiations about the settlement and costs.
It has been a long and exhausting battle but with the support of my union I have won. There is no other professional association who 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 without any hope of compensation. Instead I have remained a photojournalist and I have worked all over the world.
It is no exaggeration to say that 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.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said:
We are really pleased that Guy has won his case, it is excellent news for him and for the NUJ. The case goes to the heart of the union’s work, shows what support the NUJ can offer to members and demonstrates the benefits of our collective strength. The union is much more than the sum of its parts – we help members throughout their working lives and we consistently stand up for journalists and press freedom.
I’d like to pay tribute to Guy’s tenacity and dogged determination to secure a just outcome, which has resulted in this brilliant victory.