An interesting email popped into our inbox on Friday – from Burges Salmon, the solicitors acting on behalf of the ailing senior management regime at troubled equine charity HorseWorld.
We’ll spare you too much commentary – but suffice to say that since their earlier attempts to silence The BRISTOLIAN behind our backs (by FALSELY CLAIMING to our web hosts that we were publishing inaccurate and malicious stories about HorseWorld’s troubles), Burges Salmon appear to have figured out that unlike some ‘The Smiter’ doesn’t roll over at the first hint of trouble.
Curiously there is no specific response to the detailed, point-by-point rebuttal we sent them (and summarised online) – which shot down every last specious, inflated or misleading claim which they put to our previous web hosts. It’s almost as though they weren’t expecting us to stand up for our reports, our writers or our sources.
Well, here at The BRISTOLIAN we may have a reputation for being rough-around-the-edges, spiky and uncouth – BUT WE NEVER FABRICATE STORIES. It’s a lesson that certain other parties would be wise to learn…
One Glass Wharf
Bristol BS2 0ZX
Tel: +44 (0) 117 939 2000
Fax: +44 (0) 117 939 4400
DX 7829 Bristol
Box “Gurt Shush”
34 Old Market Street
By Email: email@example.com
Our ref: 41135.1 Your ref:
21 February 2014
Our client: HorseWorld Trust (“HorseWorld”)
We act for HorseWorld. We refer to your email to Burges Salmon dated 17 February 2014.
HorseWorld is a small local charity that relies on public support in order to keep doing the good work that it does in rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals that have been abandoned, neglected or ill-treated. HorseWorld also uses the horses in its care to work with children and young people who are disadvantaged and/or have special educational needs.
HorseWorld would rather not have instructed us in relation to your website “the Bristolian”. It did so as a last resort because many of the articles on the Bristolian concerning the charity go beyond what any individual or business (never mind a small local charity) should have to put up with. To date, over a period of many months, the charity has stood by and watched the Bristolian have a serious negative impact on its reputation.
If it is not your intention deliberately to damage the charity that has certainly been the effect. The purpose of this correspondence is to draw those effects to your attention and make you aware of the possible consequences.
Presumably in an effort to avoid the consequences of your actions, the Bristolian appears to operate on an anonymous basis, there is no individual or company that takes responsibility for it and it provides no right of reply before articles are published.
We were therefore instructed to contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and alert them to the material it was hosting at the Bristolian. The ISP reviewed your website, chose not to be connected with the Bristolian anymore and the website was taken offline.
We note that the Bristolian has now found a new ISP seemingly willing to host your content, as is your right, and the website is back online. You will be aware that your new chosen ISP appears also to operate on an anonymous basis which is presumably another tactic you use to avoid the consequences of publishing material which may be defamatory or untrue.
Of course, it is easy for a website such as yours to draw attention to itself by publishing on an anonymous basis, defamatory and untrue materiaL. The truth about a small local charity trying to continue its good work for horses and disadvantaged people may be much less attractive.
However, if you are interested in the truth, senior management at HorseWorld are willing to meet you at HorseWorld’s premises and show you around so you can see the positive charitable work HorseWorld does in the local community.
If you wish to accept this offer, please contact us and we can arrange a suitable time and date.
If the Bristolian ignores this letter and offer and continues to publish defamatory content about HorseWorld, then it may be forced to protect its reputation again. However, HorseWorld wishes to avoid further action if possible.
HorseWorld hopes that you have taken on board its concerns and that you review what the Bristolian has written about it. It hopes that you take the opportunity to visit HorseWorld and see the great work HorseWorld does in the local community and that the Bristolian takes a more considered and responsible approach towards local charities in the future.
BURGES SALMON LLP
A few points:
- In TEN MONTHS of reporting on HorseWorld, this is the FIRST TIME the charity’s management or legal representatives have contacted The BRISTOLIAN – and this was only because we foiled their attempt to sabotage us by making exaggerated and inaccurate claims to our web hosts behind our backs.
- If, as claimed originally in the letters to the web hosts, the charity’s senior management thought they had a real claim of defamation against The BRISTOLIAN, then what does it say about their PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE that they “stood by and watched the Bristolian have a serious negative impact on its reputation” for nearly a year WITHOUT SO MUCH AS AN EMAIL, PHONECALL OR LETTER demanding corrections, retractions or apologies?
- It’s simply not true to say that our “ISP reviewed [our] website [and] chose not to be connected with the Bristolian anymore and [so] the website was taken offline.” It was OUR suggestion to switch providers – to better enable us to defend against outrageous attempts at stifling a free press, and to spare a small community host from potential legal threats.
- The failure to repeat any of the specific ERRONEOUS CLAIMS in the original letter to our previous web hosts – which we robustly rebutted – or to provide any of the supporting evidence we requested within the clear and unambiguous timeframe we indicated leads us to believe that Burges Salmon acknowledges that those claims of defamation were without proper foundation.
- We reserve the right to pursue those who make defamatory, wildly inaccurate or outright untruthful claims without foundation about The BRISTOLIAN, its articles, authors or sources, whether directly to us, behind our backs to service or product providers, online, in print, verbally or telepathically.
- Why would we want to take up the senior management team’s offer of a guided tour of HorseWorld? We already know about all “the positive charitable work HorseWorld does” – and a whole long more – from people there. As we keep saying, we are big supporters of the work done by HorseWorld, it’s underpaid staff and hard-working volunteers. Our articles have been QUESTIONING THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE PEOPLE IN CHARGE, whom you now suggest we allow to schmooze us!
- Whilst we remain happy to correct genuine errors, WE STAND BY OUR STORIES, OUR REPORTERS AND OUR SOURCES – and without evidence to the contrary, we will not surrender to what amounts to an attempt to censor a newspaper.