Chris Packham awarded £90k damages after winning libel battle over tiger claims

The Springwatch star took legal action over articles about him

Chris Packham at the Royal Courts of Justice, London, for his libel trial over alleged tiger-related fraud to begin. The environmentalist is bringing a High Court libel claim over articles which he says falsely alleged he misled the public into donating to a wildlife charity to rescue
Chris Packham has several libel cases to clear his name in the pipeline. (Getty Images)

Chris Packham has been awarded £90,000 in damages after winning his High Court libel claim against two men over allegations he misled the public into donating to a wildlife charity to rescue “broken” tigers from circuses.

The Springwatch presenter had taken legal action against Country Squire Magazine.

He sued three men for libel over articles which included claims he “manipulated” people into donating to rescue five tigers while knowing the animals were well looked after.

Read more here: Chris Packham defiant after arsonists target his home (Sky News, 2 min read)

The strongly denied allegations, repeated in several tweets and videos, related to Packham’s involvement with the Wildheart Trust, which runs a wildlife sanctuary on the Isle of Wight.

In a judgment on Thursday, Mr Justice Saini ruled in Packham’s favour against editor Dominic Wightman and writer Nigel Bean.

The judge said: “Mr Packham did not commit any acts of fraud or dishonesty.”

Wightman and Bean were also ordered to pay £400,000 towards Packham’s legal fees.

However, Mr Justice Saini found that the third man Paul Read “had no editorial or equivalent responsibility for the statements complained of or the decision to publish them” and dismissed the claim against him.

Speaking outside of the Royal Courts of Justice, the TV star called the judgment “a full and frank vindication of my innocence”.

Naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham and his partner Charlotte Corney arrive at High Court for the libel trial against the editor and two contributors of Country Squire Magazine. Credit: Vuk Valcic/Alamy Live News
Chris Packham with his partner Charlotte Corney at the High Court. (Alamy)

It is not the only libel action Packham has in the pipeline.

The 61-year-old animal rights activist is also hoping to launch a legal challenge against Fieldsports Channel Ltd who have accused him of faking a death threat to himself.

Packham is outspoken on social media when it comes to animal rights issues and has become a target of threats and attacks as a result.

But what did he stand up against in his current court case, and what other legal battles does he have ahead?

'Tiger fraud' case

Naturalist and TV presenter CHRIS PACKHAM arrives at High Court for the libel trial against the editor and two contributors of Country Squire Magazine. (Credit Image: © Vuk Valcic/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE! Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News
Chris Packham is expected to take the stand during the trial at the Royal Courts of Justice. (Alamy)

Packham made a bid to clear his name of alleged "tiger fraud".

He was accused by Country Squire Magazine of making a "fraudulent appeal" on behalf of the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary on the Isle of Wight, of which he is a charity trustee.

Packham asked for help to "rescue" five tigers from ex-circus life in Spain, but the publication claimed that as the tigers were no longer in a circus they were not in need of "rescuing".

Lawyer Jonathan Price, acting for the TV presenter, said the accused had called him a "notorious liar" and accused him of "obvious nastiness" and of playing the "Asperger's victim card".

Packham said the allegations, which he denied, were repeated several times on social media.

The TV presenter was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome in 2005 and fronted an acclaimed documentary Inside Our Autistic Minds in 2022.

Read more here: Chris Packham begins libel action at High Court (BBC, 2 min read)

'Death threat' libel case

Conservationist Chris Packham gives a speech to wildlife supporters during a conversation about nature at Bassetts Mead country park, near Hook in Hampshire, the constituency of Environment Secretary Ranil Jayawardena. Picture date: Friday October 7, 2022. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
Chris Packham is planning another libel case over claims he faked a death threat. (Getty Images)

Packham is also planning to launch libel action against Fieldsports Channel Ltd over an article, video and Facebook post it published claiming he had faked a death threat to himself.

A Crowd Justice campaign has already raised £118,000 of a target of £150,000 to fund the TV presenter's latest attempt to clear his name.

A spokesperson for Fieldsports Channel Ltd said: "Chris is using his private wealth to try to force a small media company out of business. He is using the High Court as a cashpoint machine, even though he could have settled this with a phone call."

Read more here: Chris Packham's step-daughter pledges support as crowdfunding launched for libel suit (Yahoo UK, 2 min read)

Trolling and death threats

Naturalist and presenter Chris Packham speaks during the demonstration. Protesters, children, and families gathered outside Buckingham Palace and delivered a petition asking the royal family to re-wild their land to increase wildlife and help fight the climate crisis. (Photo by Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Chris Packham's activism for animal rights attracts supporters and haters. (Getty Images)

Packham is extremely vocal online over his campaigns for animal rights, including joining Extinction Rebellion protests and regularly petitioning against the use of living creatures in I'm A Celebrity trials.

But for all the support his efforts attract, there is equal opposition, making him a target for hate and vitriol on social media.

For Packham, trolling has spilt over into physical attacks and death threats made against him.

The naturalist was targeted in October 2021, when a Land Rover was set on fire outside the gate of his New Forest home.

Read more here: Death threats sent to Chris Packham in row over bird shooting licences (PA, 2 min read)

He has also spoken about receiving death threats and online abuse following his involvement in an anti-shooting campaign.

Additional reporting from PA.

Watch: Chris Packham speaks at Extinction Rebellion protest