Legal dispute over Little Chapel merchandise 'not a personal attack'

Lawyers acting on behalf of the Little Chapel Foundation recently wrote to local a silversmith in a dispute over branded merchandise Credit: ITV Channel TV

The Little Chapel Foundation has defended a letter warning it may take legal action against a Guernsey silversmith, Martyn Guille.

Mr Guille, whose shop neighbours the local landmark, says the charity accused him of passing off his products as 'official' merchandise.

Initially, The Little Chapel Foundation declined to comment on the dispute, with Chairman John Silvester saying only: "It is in the hands of advocates to resolve the issues".

But the decision to involve lawyers has been criticised by many islanders, who called it 'heavy-handed' and 'totally out of order'.

One of the charity's former supporters, photographer Chris George, publicly said he could no longer do so and had asked for his name to be removed from the Little Chapel Foundation's website:

Following the backlash from islanders, the Little Chapel Foundation issued a statement explaining why its lawyers wrote to Mr Guille:

"The Little Chapel is one of Guernsey's most beloved attractions, receiving an estimated 70,000 visitors per year.

"Our closest neighbour is Martyn Guille Silversmiths, a privately owned business operating out of rented commercial premises adjacent to the Little Chapel.

"This valuable footfall naturally flows to Mr Guille's business, and for some visitors, it may appear that the business is directly connected to the Little Chapel Foundation.

"From this adjoining location, various goods bearing the name and image of the Little Chapel are sold.

"Of course, the image of the Little Chapel is used on many souvenir products throughout the island, and the Foundation has no issue with this.

"There is no desire to contact these vendors to ask them to refrain from selling their Little Chapel merchandise."

The Foundation goes on to explain that the legal letter sent to Mr Guille was 'at no cost' to the charity:

"Our advocates, at no cost to the Foundation, sent a letter to Mr Guille highlighting our concerns about the sale of 'Little Chapel' branded goods so close to the Little Chapel itself and noting the confusion it causes in relation to a perceived link between the Foundation as a charity and his privately run business.

"By way of example, our volunteers have encountered many visitors who believe they have supported the Foundation because they have purchased 'Little Chapel' branded goods from Mr Guille's shop. Obviously, this is not the case.

"Mr Guille quite naturally carries on his business for his own commercial benefit. His business has no direct connection to the Foundation and it does not make any contribution to the Foundation's charitable funds.

"However, the Foundation has long recognised the benefit of working collaboratively with Mr Guille in achieving our respective aims.

"To this end, the Foundation has reached out to Mr Guille on numerous occasions over the last five years inviting him to meet with us but unfortunately, all such invitations have been rebuffed.

"The Foundation is not a business. It is a charity. It is not personally attacking Mr Guille or his business.

"The Foundation’s Councillors have a legal obligation to act in the best interests of the Little Chapel at all times and to protect its assets.

"We had hoped Mr Guille would agree to engage with the Foundation to address this issue without the need for legal action, but unfortunately, this did not prove possible, and he has chosen to address our concerns via the media."

The Little Chapel Foundation added that it has 'left the door open' to further discussions with Mr Guille, which it hopes could lead to 'a more constructive and neighbourly relationship' which could benefit both parties.