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HomenewsSpringwatch star Chris Packham is paid 'substantial damages' after suing Fieldsports Channel...

Springwatch star Chris Packham is paid ‘substantial damages’ after suing Fieldsports Channel over claims he had written a ‘death threat letter to himself’

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham has been paid ‘substantial’ damages after being accused of writing a ‘death threat letter to himself’, a court has heard.

Mr Packham, 62, had sued Fieldsports Channel Ltd, and Andrew O’Rourke, after a June 2022 article said he had ‘dishonestly claimed’ that the letter had been ‘sent to him by an anonymous third party’, a High Court Judge was told. 

Mr Justice Griffiths heard at a High Court hearing – in the Royal Courts of Justice complex – in London today that the parties had ‘agreed to resolve the claim’.

A lawyer representing Mr Packham said Fieldsports Channel Ltd, and Mr O’Rourke, had agreed to pay him ‘substantial damages’.

The judge was told that Fieldsports Channel Ltd had apologised and Mr O’Rourke regretted ‘instigating the publication of the article’. 

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham (pictured outside court) has been paid 'substantial' damages after being accused of writing a 'death threat letter to himself', a court has heard Springwatch presenter Chris Packham (pictured outside court) has been paid 'substantial' damages after being accused of writing a 'death threat letter to himself', a court has heard

Springwatch presenter Chris Packham (pictured outside court) has been paid ‘substantial’ damages after being accused of writing a ‘death threat letter to himself’, a court has heard 

Mr Packham, 62, had sued Fieldsports Channel Ltd, and Andrew O'Rourke, after a June 2022 article said he had 'dishonestly claimed' that the letter had been 'sent to him by an anonymous third party' Mr Packham, 62, had sued Fieldsports Channel Ltd, and Andrew O'Rourke, after a June 2022 article said he had 'dishonestly claimed' that the letter had been 'sent to him by an anonymous third party'

Mr Packham, 62, had sued Fieldsports Channel Ltd, and Andrew O’Rourke, after a June 2022 article said he had ‘dishonestly claimed’ that the letter had been ‘sent to him by an anonymous third party’

Mr Packham said outside court in a statement that he would ‘challenge’ anyone who ‘publishes or perpetuates lies about me’. 

Carol Day, who represented Mr Packham, told the judge: ‘The claimant (Mr Packham) is a well-known naturalist, nature photographer, television presenter and author.

‘He has spent much of his life campaigning on environmental protection and conservation, and animal welfare issues.

‘His campaigns receive significant support from all sections of society, including rural communities.

‘However, regrettably, the claimant regularly receives threats from those who oppose his campaigns, including death threats.’

Ms Day said Mr Packham’s ‘not-for-profit organisation’ Wild Justice had successfully challenged the UK Government’s ‘granting of general licences to shoot certain species of wild bird’.

She added: ‘This led to a spike in abuse against the claimant, and in April 2019, the claimant spoke on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme about a particular death threat he had received in the post.

‘On June 1 2022, the defendants published a video and an article on a website and social media channels, alleging that the claimant had written that death threat letter to himself but had dishonestly claimed that it had been sent to him by an anonymous third party.

‘The defendants did so without putting the allegation to the claimant, despite its gravity.

Mr Packham said outside court in a statement that he would 'challenge' anyone who 'publishes or perpetuates lies about me' Mr Packham said outside court in a statement that he would 'challenge' anyone who 'publishes or perpetuates lies about me'

Mr Packham said outside court in a statement that he would ‘challenge’ anyone who ‘publishes or perpetuates lies about me’

‘The only possible basis for the allegation was spurious handwriting analysis conducted by a purported expert hired by a third party, which has since been comprehensively discredited.

‘The allegation that the claimant forged and sent to himself a death threat and then lied about it to his family, the police and the public is plainly baseless, and has unsurprisingly caused the claimant enormous reputational damage and distress.

‘He is astounded that the defendants published the allegation on such a flimsy evidential basis.’

Ms Day said Mr Packham had been caused ‘further distress’ by the ‘defendants’ derisive response to his claim’ and ‘in particular’ (Fieldsports Channel Ltd’s) actions in ‘mounting caricatures of his head on its ‘trophy wall’ at the British Shooting Show in February 2023, alongside a head of former prime minister Boris Johnson and a British policeman’s helmet’.

She told the judge that Fieldsports Channel Ltd was a ‘prominent organisation within the field sports community’.

Ms Day added: ‘The claimant has been the victim of arson attacks and has received numerous death threats, and he considers its actions to have been utterly reckless and irresponsible in that context.

‘I can inform the court that the parties have now agreed to resolve the claim.

‘The defendants have agreed to pay the claimant substantial damages and to make a contribution to his legal costs.’

Ellen Roberts, who represented the defendants, told the judge that Fieldsports Channel Ltd ‘sincerely regrets publishing that the claimant had forged and sent himself a death threat which it fully accepts is untrue’.

She said Fieldsports Channel Ltd recognised that it and Mr Packham had ‘differing views’ on nature conservation and wildlife management.

‘It fully accepts, however, that this can never justify publishing baseless and damaging allegations of dishonesty against the claimant,’ Ms Roberts added.

‘(Fieldsports Channel Ltd) regrets that it did not conduct any verification of the handwriting report, which would have quickly demonstrated to it the falsity of the allegation, and accepts that it fell well below the standards expected of responsible, impartial journalists.

‘To indicate the sincerity of this apology, (Fieldsports Channel Ltd) has agreed to pay the claimant substantial damages and to contribute to his legal costs.

‘It has also undertaken never to repeat the allegation complained of, and has agreed to publish the full text of this statement on Fieldsports Channel’s platforms.’

She indicated that Mr O’Rourke was known by the name ‘Ben’ and said he ‘sincerely regrets instigating the publication of the article that the claimant had forged and sent himself a death threat, an allegation that he will not repeat’.

Mr Packham said in a statement outside court: ‘My message is clear – if anyone publishes or perpetuates lies about me or my conduct I will challenge them and I will win.’

Lawyers representing Mr Packham said after the hearing that Mr O’Rourke was a journalist on ‘Fieldsports Channel’ website.

They described Fieldsports Channel website as an ‘online shooting and hunting channel’.

Solicitor Ms Day said: ‘Our client can only hope that lessons have been learned from this sorry episode.’

London

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