Chris Packham sued in the High Court over articles published by the Country Squire Magazine website alleging he he misled people into donating to a wildlife charity
Chris Packham has won his libel claim against the Country Squire Magazine website which published articles accusing him of misleading people into donating money to a wildlife charity.
Vegan advocate Chris sued in the High Court over nine articles published by the outlet, which related to his involvement with the Wildheart Trust which runs an Isle of Wight-based wildlife sanctuary.
Amid the strongly denied allegations, which were repeated in several tweets and videos, he was accused of ‘manipulating’ people into donating money to help rescue five tigers – while knowing the big cats were well cared for.
The claim was defended by website editor Dominic Wightman, writer Nigel Bean and proofreader Paul Read.
In his judgement, Mr Justice Saini ruled in Chris’ favour against Dominic Wightman and Nigel Bean, but dismissed his claim against Paul Read.
The two men were ordered to pay the TV presenter £90,000 in damages, and £400,000 towards his legal fees (though the final bill has not yet been finalised) within 28 days.
Speaking in court earlier this week, Wightman made several allegations against Chris Packham.
He claimed that Chris had ‘dishonestly raised funds from the public by stating that tigers had been rescued from a circus where they had been mistreated, whereas in fact, as the claimant knew, the tigers had been well-treated and had been donated by the circus’.
Wightman continued: “I knew this before posting the articles.
“The claimant knew what he was saying in the crowdfunding videos was untruthful as he was an acting trustee of the Wildheart Trust, to where the tigers were going, when he made these claims in articles, verbally and in front of a camera.”
Chris Packham arrives at the High Court to attend his libel trial over denied allegations that he misled the public into donating to a wildlife charity to rescue "broken" tigers from circuses. Photo © DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images
‘Fail to establish the truth’
However, according to judge Mr Justice Saini: “Mr Packham did not commit any acts of fraud or dishonesty.”
In his 58-page judgement, he said: “In short, Mr Packham did not lie and each of his own statements was made with a genuine belief in its truth. There was no fraud of any type committed by him in making the fundraising statements.”
He said that Wightman and Bean ‘fail to come even close to establishing the substantial truth’ of the allegation’ that Chris defrauded people when it came to the tigers.
“They did not merely allege in the publications that there was some lack of care or negligence on the part of Mr Packham when he made statements about where the tigers had come from or as to their earlier lives,” said Mr Justice Saini.
“Nor did they suggest merely a careless lack of precision by Mr Packham in which he stated or implied the tigers were being kept in cramped conditions…[they] went straight for the most serious allegations of actual fraud and dishonesty.”
The judge also described their work as being an ‘increasingly hyperbolic and vitriolic smearing of Mr Packham’.
Chris Packham gives statement
Chris Packham believes he was targeted because he has ‘deeply held views’ against blood sports. As a result of these views, dead animals have been left outside his home.
Speaking about the case, he said the defendants’ claims ‘misled, agitated and fuelled a vocal and violent conspiratorial fringe who increasingly post threatening and vile material about [him] and [his] family’.
He said: “I do go to walk my dogs in the woods and wonder ‘is today the day that a psychopath fuelled by all this hate turns up and kills me?’
“I genuinely no longer expect to live a long life free from violence and intimidation, because it may only take the one wrong person to read Country Squire Magazine for things to go horribly wrong.”
Did you know Chris Packham is vegan? Read about how he went vegan for the animals and the planet
Featured photo © DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images