Chris Packham speaking at Hen Harrier Day 2016

Chris Packham’s succesful libel case is a win for everyone

Chris Packham has won his libel case against Country Squire Magazine. However, the good news has come at the cost of Packham’s safety as the naturalist said he now lives with the constant threat of intimidation and violence.

Packham’s case began on 2 May at the High Court in London. It accused editor Dominic Wightman, writer Nigel Bean, and proofer Paul Read of defamation over nine articles published by Country Squire Magazine. In addition to this, the case included an accusation by the website that Packham had forged a death threat to himself in order to stoke public sympathy.

The eight-day trial was heard by Justice Saini. Then, on 25 May, the judge returned a guilty verdict against Wightman and Bean, but dismissed the case against Read.

In his summary, Saini recognised the actions of Wightman and Bean as an “anti-Packham campaign” driven by personal and not public interests. The judge also recognised the wider impact this personal vendetta had against Packham, stating:

“Although these Defendants did not themselves undertake wider acts of harassment to which [Packham] makes reference in his evidence, I accept that their unsubstantiated claims would have misled and agitated vocal and sometimes violent groups. Those people have posted threatening and vile material about Mr Packham and his family online.”

And regarding the supposed forged death threat, Saini outlined how the allegation grew through a network of false allegations, discredited handwriting ‘experts’, and social media conspiracy theories.

As a result of the guilty verdict, Wightman and Bean will pay Packham £90,000 in damages and £400,000 towards his legal fees. The fee for costs was undecided at the time of publication.

You can read Justice Saini’s full summary here.

Chris Packham outside the High Court in London
Chris Packham outside the High Court in London, via The Independent/YouTube.

Violence and intimidation

Packham has faced a torrent of abusive behaviour as a result of his advocacy for animals. In April 2019, unknown persons left dead crows strung up on the gate to Packham’s home. Then, in February 2020, someone left a dead badger at his gate. And most disconcertingly of all, in October 2021, people in masks set fire to a land rover outside his gates, leading to the vehicle exploding.

The death threat was sent to Packham in April 2019, just days after the dead crows incident. Meanwhile. the earliest Country Squire Magazine article included in Packham’s case was published on 4 April 2020.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign left Packham in an anxious state. According to BBC News, when giving evidence the wildlife advocate said:

“I do go to walk my dogs in the woods and wonder ‘is today the day that a psychopath fuelled by all this hate turns up and kills me?’

“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.”

Chris Packham on a grouse moor with a spring trap
Chris Packham, via his YouTube channel.

Packham’s win is for everyone

In a press release before the trial, Packham said he’d brought the libel case not only for himself:

“Many people don’t have the financial capacity to go through the process of taking civil action or do not feel invested with the mental stoicism to fight their abusers in court, and I believe it’s important that this case focusses attention on this type of abuse.”

Saini’s verdict vindicates Packham and pushes back against the bullying behaviour that animal abusers seem to relish.

That wasn’t Packham’s only good news recently, though. On 24 May, the RSPCA announced the presenter as its new president. Packham said he was “immensely proud” of the appointment, though Countryside Alliance head Tim Bonner wasn’t quite as cheerful about the news.

Between the successful libel case and his new role at the RSPCA, it seems Packham has faced down his enemies and won. However, it’s not just a win for the man himself, but for all of us – including the animals murdered day in, day out, by the hunting and shooting industries.

Watch Protect the Wild’s video A Trail of Lies, which was narrated by Packham.

Featured image via John Ranson