- By Dave Gilleat & PA Media
- BBC news
Naturalist Chris Packham has won a defamation lawsuit against a website alleging that he tricked people into donating to a tiger rescue charity.
The presenter sued the Supreme Court over articles published on the Country Squire Magazine website.
Website editor Dominic Wightman, writer Nigel Bean and proofreader Paul Read defended the defamation claim.
Mr Justice Saini ruled in Mr Packham’s favor against Mr Wightman and Mr Bean, but dismissed the verdict against Mr Read.
Mr Wightman and Mr Bean were ordered to pay £90,000 in damages to the Springwatch presenter.
“Mr Packham did not commit any fraud or dishonesty,” the judge said in his 58-page sentence.
“Mr Packham doesn’t lie and every statement he makes is made with genuine conviction in its truth.
“There was no fraud of any kind committed by him in making fundraising statements.”
During his trial, Packham said he had been targeted for his “deep views” on blood sports.
The 61-year-old and his partner, Charlotte Corney, are trustees of the Isle of Wight reserve, the Wildheart Trust.
Mr Packham is accused of dishonest fundraising at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic while knowing the charity would receive a £500,000 allowance from his insurance.
But Mr Justice Saini said Mr Wightman and Mr Bean had not “come close to establishing important facts”.
“Rather than approaching the task with an investigative mindset, these defendants targeted Mr Packham as someone they conspired against,” he said.
He added: “Any investigative journalism quickly gives way… to the increasingly exaggerated and cynical smearing of Mr Packham, with other unsubstantiated allegations of dishonesty. related to the burning of peat and the trust’s insurance was gratuitously included.”
Giving evidence during the trial, Mr Packham explained: “We don’t expect that we will be covered against the Covid-19 closures.”
He said the insurance payments “finally saved the reserve in a time of great need”.
“But to be clear, if we hadn’t launched the fundraising call as quickly as we did, these payments might have come too late to make a difference,” he said.
He said the defendants’ statements “distracted, incited and fueled a loud and violent conspiracy group who increasingly posted threatening and degrading material about me and my family.” my family”.
Mr Packham added: “Do I walk my dog in the woods and wonder ‘is today the day that a psychopath driven by all this hate comes in and kills me?’
“I really don’t expect to live long without violence and intimidation, because it could take just one person to misread Country Squire Magazine and things could go horribly wrong.”
During the trial, lawyers for Wightman and Mr Bean said the articles were true and in the public interest.
Mr Read’s attorney described him as a “plain reader of evidence” and was not responsible for the articles.
The judge agreed that Mr Read had “no editorial responsibility or equivalent responsibility for the claims claimed or the decision to publish them”.
But he said others have “used this litigation as a tool to introduce derogatory material to defame Mr Packham”.
He added: “The tone shifted to sinister and vulgar threats, including derogatory references to Mr Packham’s neurodiversity and abusing (attorney) Leigh Day.
“This is not the product of any responsible journalism.”