Chris Packham wins libel claim against website
“The judgment handed down in Chris Packham’s libel case should send a firm warning to irresponsible journalists that they need to think twice before embarking on a ‘hate’ campaign publishing untruths about individuals. While not a landmark case, it’s a big win for the neurodiverse community and has serious implications.
“Highly defamatory statements not only cause reputational harm to the individual concerned but can also result in the individual receiving unwarranted backlash from the public and online trolls.
“As a result of the defendants’ baseless comments labelling Packham as a dishonest fraud at first and then a rapist, a bully, and a pervert (some of the most serious of allegations) he received a staggering number of death threats and feared for his and his family’s lives. The Court held none of these statements are true. Mr Justice Saini said ‘there is not a shred of evidence in support of the offensive allegations.’
“The defendants attempted to use the proceedings to smear Packham even more by revealing worse (new) slurs at trial including targeting his neurodiversity and attempted to rely on absolute privilege where comments said at trial cannot be defamatory.
“This conduct was picked up by Mr Justice Saini and in his ruling, he said ‘the defendants used this litigation as a device to introduce offensive material to smear Mr Packham’. Chris Packham was awarded a higher proportion of costs than is usual and the defendants were ordered to pay an interim payment of £400,000 towards his costs, which is likely to be even higher when finalised. This is in addition to the £90,000 award for damages, which means the defendants will be approaching £1 million in losses when their own legal costs are taken into account.
“This case shows that whilst proceedings are still costly, potential claimants should be encouraged that justice will prevail."
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Naturalist Chris Packham has won his libel claim against a website that alleged he misled people into donating to a tiger rescue charity.
The presenter sued in the High Court over articles published on the Country Squire Magazine website.
Site editor Dominic Wightman, writer Nigel Bean and proof reader Paul Read defended the libel claim.
Mr Justice Saini ruled in Mr Packham's favour against Mr Wightman and Mr Bean, but dismissed the one against Mr Read.
Speaking outside court, Mr Packham said online abuse and hate crimes were a "vile part of modern life".”