Photographer David Hoffman, 64, lost five teeth when he was struck violently three times by a Territorial Support Group officer during the G20 protest in London in April 2009. In consequence of the attack Hoffman lost five molars from his lower jaw.
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In a Consent Order sealed on December 1st the Metropolitan Police apologised to Hoffman for the treatment he received and agreed to pay £30,000 in compensation plus legal costs. Hoffman’s case has been supported by the NUJ throughout and was conducted by Chez Cotton, head of action against the police at Bindmans Solicitors and a co-ordinator of the Police Action Lawyers Group.
The Met also formally recognised that press freedom is a cornerstone of democracy and acknowledged that the injury received had prevented Hoffman from freely reporting the G20 protest.
The substantial payment and out of court settlement makes it unlikely that the officer involved in the assault on Hoffman and any other officers who may have instigated the attack will be investigated or publicly called to account.
“The police have tremendous power to allow or to suppress protest,” said Hoffman at a seminar during the Who’s Afraid of Photographers event organised by the NUJ and held at the House of Commons in October 2010.
“Their actions can determine whether a protest is peaceful or violent. With that power comes a duty to be open to scrutiny, visible and accountable. As police have become more involved in shaping protest so it becomes even more important that their actions and behaviour can be openly reported,” said Hoffman.
David Hoffman was covering the G20 demonstrations in the Bank area of the City of London on April 1st 2009 for sales to the national press and for his social issues based photo archive when the attack occurred.
Photographer David Hoffman is assaulted by a Territorial Support Group officer during the G20 protests in 2009. Copyright photo, contact EPUK for details.
The assault on Hoffman, as described in a document prepared by Bindmans Solicitors, began at around 4.00pm when, an Inspector of the Territorial Support Group in full riot gear, violently pushed the photographer twice. On the second occasion Hoffman was thrown into the back of a man standing in front of him.
As a result Hoffman moved away from the action only to be assaulted again by the same officer who appeared to have singled him out. On this occasion the photographer was hit in the face with the officer’s shield. The Bindmans document states that the blow snapped Hoffman’s jaw shut with considerable force.
The blow directly fractured the roots of two of David Hoffman’s teeth, damaged a third and led to the loss of all five lower right molars. Dental surgeon Professor Edward Lynch stated that “it is extremely unlikely that the injury may have been caused by something else”.
In the course of events Hoffman’s equipment received nearly £200 worth of damage. Photographs show officers from the Forward Intelligence Team watching closely as the attack took place.
Attack on democracy
Speaking about the incident NUJ Secretary Jeremy Dear 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 photographers’ 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,” said Dear. “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.”
Three hours after the assault on David Hoffman newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson died following another seemingly unprovoked attack by a Territorial Support Group officer. Video of this attack also shows Forward Intelligence Team officers in close proximity.
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