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Chris Packham settles defamation claim with Fieldsports Channel after it admits death threat claims were untrue

Environmental campaigner and naturalist Chris Packham CBE has settled a defamation claim against the website Fieldsports Channel after it falsely accused him of writing a fake death threat letter to himself.

Posted on 06 November 2023

The online shooting and hunting channel has agreed to pay Mr Packham substantial damages and contribute to his legal costs as well as provide an undertaking never to repeat the allegation.
In June 2022, Fieldsports Channel and one of its journalists, Ben O’Rourke, published an online video and article alleging the TV presenter had written a fake death threat letter to himself and lied about it being sent by an anonymous third party. The serious allegation was not put to Mr Packham directly to offer him right of reply.
In bringing the claim against Fieldsports Channel Ltd and Mr O’Rourke, Mr Packham’s lawyers argued the allegations were plainly baseless and had caused him enormous reputational damage and distress. They pointed out that the only possible basis for the allegation was handwriting analysis of the letter which has since been comprehensively discredited.
Of particular concern to Mr Packham was the implication he had lied to his family about the death threat, knowing it would cause them considerable anxiety. Also, that he had lied to, and knowingly wasted the time of, Hampshire Police, who investigated the letter and on whom he relies for his and his family’s safety. 
Mr Packham’s distress was later compounded by Fieldsports Channel’s derisive response to his claim, in particular mounting caricatures of his head on a “trophy wall” at the British Shooting Show in February 2023. Mr Packham 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.
As well as paying Mr Packham substantial damages and contributing to his legal costs, Fieldsports channel and Mr O’Rourke have agreed never to repeat the allegation and will publish a legal statement, which is also to be read in the High Court on 6 November 2023, explaining the matter on its platforms.
Mr Packham was represented by Mr Jonathan Price and Ms Claire Overman of Doughty Street Chambers, who are instructed by partner Tessa Gregory and solicitor Carol Day of law firm Leigh Day.
Chris Packham said:

“Fieldsports TV displayed a complete contempt of even the basic codes of real journalism. They allowed a vicious vendetta to drive a targeted catalogue of lies in an attempt to destroy my credibility, integrity and reputation. Further, even when involved in this litigation they recklessly posted images of myself contrived to fuel hatred amongst fire-arms owners when they knew I was already the victim of targeted attacks from members of this community. They also failed to show any respect for the legal process. As a consequence, Fieldsports TV have now issued a full apology and agreed to pay substantial costs and damages. My message is clear - if anyone publishes or perpetuates lies about me or my conduct I will challenge them and I will win.”

Carol Day, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day said:

“Our client Mr Packham was the subject of an egregious slur against his reputation based on the flimsiest of evidence that failed to stand up to even the most basic form of scrutiny. To be accused of writing a fake death threat to himself, with all the consequences that brings for his family and the authorities, was a highly damaging attack on Mr Packham’s integrity. The fact he was then mocked publicly for objecting to these defamatory remarks shows how little regard the defendants had for the reputation of others. Our client can only hope that lessons have been learned from this sorry episode and it brings an end to these gratuitous attacks on Mr Packham’s character by people who simply disagree with his views.”

Carol Day
Environment Judicial review Planning Wildlife

Carol Day

Carol founded the firm's environmental litigation service in 2013

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