Johnny Depp arrives at High Court as libel trial against The Sun set to begin

Amber Heard ‘invented violence claims’, Johnny Depp libel trial told

Actor is suing newspaper over 2018 article describing him as a ‘wife beater’

Ellie Harrison,Chiara Giordano
Tuesday 07 July 2020 13:05

Johnny Depp “is not and never has been a wife beater” and ex-wife Amber Heard’s allegations of violence are “complete lies”, his lawyers have told the High Court.

The Pirates of the Caribbean actor, 57, is suing The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and the tabloid’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article that called him a “wife beater” and referred to “overwhelming evidence” that he attacked Heard, 34, during their relationship.

Depp strenuously denies the claims and his legal team alleges it was Heard who was violent towards him.

The Hollywood star’s lawyers have said his libel action against The Sun is “not a case about money” but about “vindication” and “clearing his reputation”.

His barrister, David Sherborne, argued Heard “invented these stories of serious violence” and that she was the “abuser” in the relationship.

Depp’s lawyers will attempt to prove The Sun’s allegations are untrue and defamatory, and are expected to argue that the newspaper’s coverage has cost him lucrative film roles.

However, lawyers for NGN have told the court the description of Depp as a “wife beater” is “entirely accurate and truthful”.

They argued a raft of evidence, including photos, audio recordings and the Hollywood star’s own text messages, supports the defence that Depp “beat his wife Amber Heard, causing her to suffer significant injury and on occasion leading to her fearing for her life”.

The Sun is relying on 14 separate allegations of domestic violence from between 2013 and 2016 in its defence.

Mr Sherborne claimed the newspaper’s article amounted to a “full-scale attack” on Depp.

“The claimant’s position is clear — Ms Heard’s allegations are complete lies,” he said. “He is not a wife beater and never has been.”

US actor Amber Heard (centre) arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 7 July 2020 

He added: “Indeed, he says that it was Ms Heard who was the one who started physical fights, who punched or hit him (and there was little he could really do to stop this); she was the abuser, not him, and the contemporaneous evidence fully supports that, as the court will hear.”

Depp took to the witness stand on the first day of the trial, during which he was quizzed about his friendships and associations with a raft of famous names, including Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, writer Hunter S Thompson and musician Sir Elton John.

He was also questioned at some length about his drug taking and a number of violent outbursts in his past.

The court was played a video clip, recorded by Heard without Depp’s knowledge, in which Depp, wearing a large cowboy hat and denim shirt, appeared to be drunk and agitated as he swore repeatedly and slammed glass-fronted cabinet doors.

Asked by NGN’s lead counsel Sasha Wass QC whether he would agree he was violent in the clip, Depp said: “I was violent with some cupboards”, before adding: “Clearly, I wasn’t in the best state of mind.”

The actor told the court that “the monster”, which Heard claims the actor turned into when he “snaps”, was something his ex-wife “became obsessed with”.

File image of US actor Johnny Depp with ex-wife Amber Heard pictured in September 2015.

Ms Wass responded: “It was your name for your alter ego, the bad side of your character, the person who used to lose control, used to smash up hotel rooms, used to assault camera crew men or paparazzi, that bad boy image ... when you lose control and become a violent thug, that’s ‘the monster’, isn’t it?”

Mr Depp replied: “No. ‘The monster’ in situations with Ms Heard was when the argument would escalate.”

He claimed it happened when he did not “placate” Ms Heard, adding: “If she was yelling, I would yell back and then it became a screaming match.”

Depp’s former girlfriends Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder are expected to give evidence as witnesses via video link during the trial. Both have already claimed Depp was “never violent” towards them in previous statements.

The trial, expected to last three weeks, was originally due to start in March but was delayed by the coronavirus crisis and will now take place across five courtrooms to ensure social distancing.

Additional reporting by Press Association.