Chris Packham wins libel claim over `tiger fraud´ allegations
25th May 2023

Chris Packham wins £90,000 libel battle over claims he ‘manipulated’ the public into donating to wildlife charity – as judge rules the TV naturalist committed ‘no fraud of any type’

  •  The TV naturalist sued three men for libel over nine articles

Chris Packham has won his High Court libel claim over denied allegations he misled the public into donating to a wildlife charity to rescue ‘broken’ tigers from circuses.

The TV naturalist sued three men for £90,000 for libel over nine articles in the Country Squire Magazine which included claims he ‘manipulated’ people into donating to rescue five tigers while knowing the animals were well looked after.

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

Dominic Wightman, editor of the online site Country Squire Magazine, defended the libel claim along with writer Nigel Bean and a third man, Paul Read.

In a judgment on Thursday, Mr Justice Saini ruled in Mr Packham’s favour against against Mr Wightman and Mr Bean, but dismissed his claim against Mr Read.

He said: ‘Mr Packham did not commit any acts of fraud or dishonesty.’

Mr Wightman and Mr Bean were ordered to pay £90,000 in damages to the TV presenter.

Chris Packham at the Royal Courts of Justice (PA)

Dominic Wightman (pictured), editor of Country Squire Magazine, said alleged that Mr Packham had ‘dishonestly raised funds from the public’

Fellow defendants, writers Nigel Bean (left) and Paul Read (right) attended the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday to give evidence the Chris Packham libel trial

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.’

On Tuesday, Mr Wightman, who works in asset management, gave evidence at the High Court in London.

He alleged that Mr Packham had ‘dishonestly raised funds from the public by stating that tigers had been rescued from a circus where they had been mistreated, whereas in fact, as the claimant knew, the tigers had been well-treated and had been donated by the circus’.

Mr Wightman continued: ‘I knew this before posting the articles.

‘The claimant knew what he was saying in the crowdfunding videos was untruthful as he was an acting trustee of the Wildheart Trust, to where the tigers were going, when he made these claims in articles, verbally and in front of a camera.’

However, Mr Justice Saini said that both Dominic Wightman and Nigel Bean ‘fail to come even close to establishing the substantial truth’ of the allegation Chris Packham defrauded anyone in relation to the tigers.

He said: ‘They did not merely allege in the publications that there was some lack of care or negligence on the part of Mr Packham when he made statements about where the tigers had come from or as to their earlier lives.

‘Nor did they suggest merely a careless lack of precision by Mr Packham in which he stated or implied the tigers were being kept in cramped conditions… (they) went straight for the most serious allegations of actual fraud and dishonesty.’

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