TV naturalist Chris Packham has won a libel case after being accused of misleading the public about donations to a wildlife charity.
The BBC Springwatch presenter sued three men over allegations in nine articles including claims he “manipulated” people into donating to rescue five tigers while knowing the animals were well looked after.
The articles related to the Wildheart Trust, which runs a wildlife sanctuary on the Isle of Wight.
During the case, the 62-year-old told the High Court in London the claims had resulted in him becoming a “victim of a campaign of vile and relentless intimidation”.
He said the allegations had fuelled “a vocal and violent conspiratorial fringe who increasingly post threatening and vile material about me and my family” – and that “random dead animals and human faeces” had been regularly sent to him.
Image: Chris Packham with partner Charlotte Corney, at the Royal Courts of Justice, London The TV naturalist took legal action against Dominic Wightman, editor of the online site Country Squire Magazine, as well as writer Nigel Bean and a third man, Paul Read.
He won his case against Mr Wightman and Mr Bean but the judge threw out his claim against Mr Read.
Mr Wightman and Mr Bean were ordered to pay £90,000 in damages to the TV presenter.
In a 58-page judgment, Mr Justice Saini 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.”
‘Masked attackers burned down gate to his home’
Mr Packham had always strongly denied accusations he had defrauded and manipulated people into donating to the charity to rescue tigers – while knowing they were well cared for.
It was also alleged he dishonestly raised money for the charity at the beginning of the COVID pandemic while knowing it was due to receive £500,000 from insurers.
Mr Wightman and Mr Bean’s lawyers said the articles could be defended as true, while Mr Read said he was not responsible for the publications as he was a “mere proofreader”.
In a 50-page witness statement, Mr Packham said: “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.”
He also told the court about how “masked attackers” set fire to a car and burned down the gate to his home.