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US actor Johnny Depp loses UK libel case

November 2, 2020

The Pirates of the Caribbean star sued "The Sun" over a story that accused him of physically abusing his former wife, US actress Amber Heard. The judge ruled that the story published "was substantially true."

US actor Johnny Depp
Image: picture alliance/dpa/J. Kalaene

Hollywood star Johnny Depp lost his libel battle with a British tabloid on Monday over allegations that he was a "wife beater."

Depp, 57, famed for his role in films such as "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Edward Scissorhands," had sued News Group Newspapers (NGN), publishers of The Sun, and one of its executive editors, Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article which stated he had been physically violent towards his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, 34.

The article also questioned his casting in the "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them" movie franchise.

In a ruling on Monday, Justice Andrew Nicol dismissed the Pirates Of The Caribbean star's claim, saying NGN had proved what was in the article to be "substantially true."

The judge said: "The claimant has not succeeded in his action for libel."

"Although he has proved the necessary elements of his cause of action in libel, the defendants have shown that what they published in the meaning which I have held the words to bear was substantially true," he said.

"I have reached these conclusions having examined in detail the 14 incidents on which the defendants rely as well as the overarching considerations which the claimant submitted I should take into account."

A lawyer for Depp said he would appeal the decision.

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp
Amber Heard (L) and Johnny Depp (R) arrive at the High Court in London for a hearing in the libel case

Judge dismisses 'hoax' claims

The libel trial garnered worldwide attention as it unfolded over three weeks in July at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Over the course of three weeks, Justice Nicol heard evidence from both Depp and Heard about their tempestuous marriage, alleged affairs, as well as his hedonistic lifestyle and battle with alcohol and drugs.

Depp was accused of assaulting Heard 14 times in locations around the world — including a "three-day hostage situation."

The "Pirates Of The Caribbean" star denied having been violent to Heard, and claimed the article included quotes from alleged victims of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein in order to "finish his career" by linking the allegations against him to the #MeToo and Time's Up movements.

NGN defended the article as true and said Depp was "controlling and verbally and physically abusive towards Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs" between early 2013 and May 2016, when the couple split.

The judge in the case also dismissed claims by Depp's legal team that Heard had "constructed a hoax" about the abuse, writing in his decision: "I do not accept this characterization of Ms. Heard."

A lawyer representing Heard said the verdict was "not a surprise" for those following the trial.

jf/rs (Reuters, AFP)