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Nine-year fight for NUJ photographer ends in Swiss legal victory

20 December 2012

After nine years of fighting his case, NUJ member and photographer Guy Smallman has been awarded compensation of 75,000 Swiss Francs by the State of Geneva. After paying the legal fees, Guy will have just under £40,000 in compensation.

On 1 June 2003, Guy was covering the G8 protests in Geneva for a media agency. Following the protest, the police continued to charge at demonstrators and as Guy ran away from a police unit, a flash bang grenade was thrown at him and it blew a hole the size of a tennis ball into the back of his left leg.

The police stood over him as he lay bleeding in the street and they did not offer any first aid. The protesters called an ambulance and the event was captured on camera.

Guy Ssmallman was taken to hospital, he had an operation on his leg and he remained in hospital for nearly three weeks.

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 Smallman in hospital and the branch arranged his flight home. Upon arrival at Gatwick, a car had been arranged by the branch to take Guy Smallman straight to his GP to obtain the crucial after care needed and during hiss 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 his favour and Guy Smallman won his case. Since then, his lawyer has been in negotiations about the settlement and costs.

Guy Smallman said:

"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."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, 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."

Tags: , compensation, geneva, switzerland, protests, guy smallman, photographers, journalists injured