Chris Packham wins libel claim against website

Chris Packham

Chris Packham sued three men for libel at the High Court

Naturalist Chris Packham has won his libel claim against a website that alleged he misled people into donating to a tiger rescue charity.

The presenter sued in the Hight Court over articles published on the Country Squire Magazine website.

Site editor Dominic Wightman, writer Nigel Bean, and a third man, Paul Read, defended the libel claim.

Mr Justice Saini ruled in Mr Packham’s favour against Mr Wightman and Mr Bean, but dismissed the one against Mr Read.

Mr Wightman and Mr Bean were ordered to pay £90,000 in damages to the Springwatch host.

“Mr Packham did not commit any acts of fraud or dishonesty,” the judge said in his 58-page judgment.

“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.”

Chris Packham and Charlotte Corney

Chris Packham and his partner Charlotte Corney are trustees of animal charity the Wildheart Trust

During the trial Mr Packham said he had been targeted because of his “deeply held views” about blood sports.

The 61-year-old and his partner Charlotte Corney are trustees of Isle of Wight sanctuary the Wildheart Trust.

Mr Packham was accused of dishonestly raising money at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic while knowing the charity was due to receive a £500,000 benefit from its insurance.

But Mr Justice Saini said Mr Wightman and Mr Bean did not “come even close to establishing the substantial truth”.

“Rather than approaching the task with an investigative mind, these defendants targeted Mr Packham as a person against whom they had an agenda,” he said.

He added: “Any investigative journalism quickly gave way… to increasingly hyperbolic and vitriolic smearing of Mr Packham, with further unsubstantiated allegations of dishonesty regarding peat-burning and the trust’s insurance gratuitously thrown in.”

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