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YUSU officers are unmoved by threats of libel from barcrawl company Carnage. The event's organisers have warned the Students' Union that they are considering a lawsuit over comments quoted in a recent Nouse article.
The YUSU Executive committee, who were contacted by Carnage last week demanding the retraction of the article from the Nouse website, are confident that any lawsuit against them would fail.
YUSU Societies and Communications Officer, Sam Bayley, said: "I think that YUSU would win to be honest. Our understanding of the legal issues is that expressing opinion can't be libellous, and we know that Nouse reporters have acted properly. There is nothing to correct. That is the position we are going to stick with."
Carnage, which ran its first York event on Sunday October 28, felt that two quotations from the article were inaccurate and defamatory. The first, a quotation from Bayley during a YUSU Exec meeting, claimed that Carnage are "a rip-off" and "aren't ethical". Bayley compared the 20-30p cost price of a Carnage t-shirt with its retail price of £8. "They said the figures were inaccurate, but they were taken from a Carnage representative," he said.
Carnage also took issue with a comment made by one of their representatives to a Nouse reporter, which stated: "Do you think I care about third-world kids? You should see my overdraft." According to Carnage, the interview from which the quotation was obtained amounted to "harassment".
The company first made contact with YUSU in a phone call three weeks ago. YUSU Entertainment Officer Rory Shanks was told that a lawsuit would be filed should stories relating to the company be printed in campus media. Shanks described the threat as "amateurish tactics to intimidate us that were insulting to my intelligence."
After the article was published, a second phone call was made stating that legal proceedings would begin should it not be withdrawn. This threat has not been actioned. Bayley said: "Part of legal action and getting lawyers is sometimes to intimidate. On this occasion it hasn't worked - if that is what they were trying to do. Generally, we are not a Union that does what it is told and listens to that kind of thing. We do what is best for our students, societies and media outlets" .
While YUSU believe legal action is unlikely to materialise, they have contacted the NUS legal support team. "We have spoken with Paul England, our NUS regional co-ordinator, and he has been looking into it. The NUS are more experienced with this kind of issue, and they have the legal team to back it up as well," said Bayley.
The NUS also refuted a claim from Carnage that it had previously sued a union over a similar issue, forcing an out-of-court settlement for around £11,000. Bayley commented: "They could not confirm this. Unless the union in question is one of the five not affiliated with the NUS, it is strange that the NUS members who deal with these issues have not heard anything about it."
These events come in the aftermath of the death of Gethin Bevan, a University of Bath student who was found hanged in the early hours of Friday, October 26, after participating in the Carnage event in the area. Police are not treating the death as suspicious.
Carnage has also stated its intention to run more events in York. Andrew Elliot, owner of Ziggy's Nightclub, which went into partnership with the company for the York event, described the barcrawl as a "debacle and a farce". He said: "It was a fiasco in our view, and I have told them that it will not happen again. I think the general feeling in York is that this is not a Carnage place."