Johnny Depp loses libel case against The Sun over wife beater article

Johnny Depp loses libel case against The Sun over wife beater article

Johnny Depp has lost his libel trial against The Sun’s publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN). 

The ruling in the high-profile libel trial was handed down today by Mr Justice Nicol, three months after closing statements.

Depp’s trial against the newspaper started on July 7, with testimonies from Depp, his ex-wife Amber Heard, the star’s security team and personal assistant, and Heard’s sister, friends and acting coach, amongst others.

It continued on for three weeks, concluding with closing statements on July 28.

Depp, 57, was suing NGN and The Sun’s executive editor Dan Wootton, in relation to a column Wootton wrote in April 2018, with the headline: ‘Gone Potty – How can JK Rowling be “genuinely happy” casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?’ 

It referred to author Rowling’s defence of Depp’s casting in the film adaptation of her Harry Potter spin-off series.

Depp denied all allegations of domestic violence. On the trial’s opening day, his lawyer David Sherborne said that the article made ‘defamatory allegations of the utmost seriousness’ against Mr Depp, accusing him of committing serious assaults on Ms Heard and ‘inflicting such serious injuries that she feared for her life’.

Mr Sherborne wrote: ‘The articles amount to a full-scale attack on the claimant as a “wife beater”, guilty of the most horrendous physical abuse. The author deploys a panoply of cultural and topical references – namely the #MeToo movement, the Time’s Up movement and the disgraced film mogul and serial abuser of women Harvey Weinstein – in order to convey the seriousness of what the claimant is alleged to have done. 

‘They are allegations which the claimant absolutely denies, and which, at the time of publication, he had already publicly denied. Despite that, the defendants published the allegations, without any reference to the claimant’s position, to launch (Mr Wootton’s) “brand new column” with a fanfare. 

‘They even deliberately misused and misquoted #MeToo/Time’s Up victim Katherine Kendall to present the false impression that she – and by obvious implication the #MeToo movement as well – endorsed these allegations, something which Ms Kendall complained about in writing to The Sun but to no avail.

‘The claimant’s position is clear – Ms Heard’s allegations are complete lies.The claimant was not violent towards Ms Heard, it was she who was violent to him.’

NGN’s lawyer argued that the description of Mr Depp as a ‘wife beater’ was ‘accurate and truthful’, with lawyer Sasha Wass claiming that when the actor ‘failed to control his alcohol and substance abuse’, ‘Mr Depp’s aggression typically descended into physically destructive behaviour, including the use of violence against [Amber Heard]. His “wife beating” behaviour included throwing objects at her, slapping her across the face, kicking her, gripping her around the throat and threatening to kill her. 

‘In periods of sobriety following Mr Depp’s destructive rages, he recognised the problems he faced, apologised to Ms Heard and blamed what he described as “his illness”. He referred to his drunken and violent persona as “the monster”. ‘

When sober, Mr Depp was capable of kindness, charm and generosity. The side of character which he described as “the monster” was jealous, controlling, violent and savage. It is these characteristics which qualify him for the term “wife beater”’.

During the trial, 14 incidences of alleged domestic abuse were brought up, including what Ms Heard described as a ‘three day ordeal’ in Australia in March 2015, where Mr Depp alleges the Aquaman actress threw a glass bottle at him, severing his fingertip.

Ms Heard, 34, alleged that the actor cut his own finger while smashing a phone against the wall.

Ms Heard claimed that Mr Depp threatened to ‘slice up her face’ with a bottle during the alcohol-fuelled row. 

The actress also claimed that Mr Depp tried to push her sister Whitney Henriquez down the stairs, admitting that she punched the star in defence of her sister on this occasion.

A separate allegation involved an incident in December 2015, when Ms Heard claimed she was left with pus-filled wounds on her scalp after Mr Depp allegedly pulled out clumps of her hair after dragging her across the apartment and repeatedly punching her. 

A bizarre recurring story in the trial involved faeces being found in Heard and Depp’s marital bed following Heard’s 30th birthday party.

Graphic pictures of the faeces were shown in court, with Mr Depp accusing Amber or one of her friends leaving the poo there and Ms Heard denying the allegation.

In texts sent by Mr Depp after the housekeeper discovered the faeces, he called his wife ‘Amber Turd’.

Throughout the trial, Mr Depp denied Ms Heard’s allegations of abuse and claimed that the actress was the abuser.

Depp’s former assistant Stephen Deuters said in his written statement that he was ‘extremely surprised and outraged’ when Ms Heard obtained a temporary restraining order against her husband, writing: ‘In relation to the TRO, I, along with many others, was extremely surprised and outraged when this hit the press. I knew that Ms Heard was the abuser in the relationship and I was appalled that she would behave in this way.’

Although their cross-examinations were omitted from the trial due to time constraints, Johnny’s exes Winona Ryder and Vanessa Paradis supported the star in written statements. 

Ryder, who was engaged to Johnny for three years in the 90s, wrote: ‘I understand that it is very important that I speak from my own experience, as I obviously was not there during his marriage to Amber, but, from my experience, which was so wildly different, I was absolutely shocked, confused and upset when I heard the accusations against him. 

‘The idea that he is an incredibly violent person is the farthest thing from the Johnny I knew and loved. I cannot wrap my head around these accusations. He was never, never violent towards me. He was never, never abusive at all towards me. He has never been violent or abusive towards anybody I have seen.’

And Paradis, who shares two children with Depp, wrote: ‘This is nothing like the true Johnny I have known, and from my personal experience of many years, I can say he was never violent or abusive to me. 

‘I have seen that these outrageous statements have been really distressing, and also caused damage to his career because unfortunately people have gone on believing these false facts. 

‘This is so upsetting as he has helped so many persons in his personal and professional life, with kindness and generosity.’

Ms Heard was present for every day of the trial; Mr Depp was present for all days bar the penultimate day of proceedings, and was late on two occasions due to ‘film meetings’.

The Pirates Of The Caribbean actor was supported by fans outside the High Court, receiving flowers and gifts on numerous occasions.

On the final day of the trial, Depp’s team were seen giving out gifts to fans who had supported the actor.

A handwritten note inside the envelopes read: ‘My sincere thanks for all!’, and came with a printed bandana.

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