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Chris Packham wins libel case

Chris Packham emerges victorious in case about claims over rescued tigers, reports Steve Faragher

Chris Packham

Chris Packham

Chris Packham has won his libel case against Country Squire Magazine, with a High Court Judge in London awarding him £90,000 in damages. According to The Guardian, the losing defendants were also ordered to make an interim payment of £400,000 towards Packham’s costs.

Accusations published online by Country Squire Magazine suggested that Chris Packham had lied in two instances, one time to mislead the public into funding the rescue of tigers from a circus, and another to suggest that he wrote a death-threat to himself.

The second accusation concerning the death threat was withdrawn unreservedly by the defendants before the case was concluded and in the principal matter of the tiger rescue Mr Justice Saini ruled in Packham’s favour and said: “Mr Packham did not commit any acts of fraud or dishonesty.”

Two of the defendants, Dominic Wightman, the editor of Country Squire Magazine, and the writer Nigel Bean were found to have libelled Packham, and ordered to pay him damages. The claim against a third defendant, Paul Read, who had described himself as a ‘mere proofreader’ was dismissed.

Mr Justice Saini said that Mr Wightman and Mr Bean “failed to come even close to establishing the substantial truth” of the principal allegation.

“The approach revealed by the evidence is that rather than approaching the task with an investigative mind, these defendants targeted Mr Packham as a person against whom they had an agenda.”

Mr Packham’s barrister Jonathan Price – who once described the allegations as “tiger fraud” – previously told the High Court in London that some of the articles accused the presenter of having an “obvious nastiness” and playing the “Asperger’s victim card”.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Saini said that Mr Wightman and Mr Bean had “used this litigation as a device to introduce offensive material to smear Mr Packham”.

He added: “As is clear on the face of the articles that followed the letter of claim, the tone descended into sinister threats and outright vitriol, including offensive references to Mr Packham’s neurodiversity, and abuse of (solicitors) Leigh Day.

“These were not the product of any acts of responsible journalism.”

Country Squire Magazine has today issued a public apology on its website.

Chris Packham has also brought a libel case against Fieldsports Channel. No date has yet been set for that trial.