Johnny Depp loses bid to overturn High Court libel ruling that he assaulted Amber Heard

High Court concluded last year that article describing actor as ‘wife beater’ was true

Joe Middleton
Thursday 25 March 2021 17:46
Johnny Depp sues ex-wife for $50 million in defamation suit
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Johnny Depp has lost a bid to overturn a damning High Court ruling which concluded he assaulted his ex-wife Amber Heard and left her in “fear for her life”.

The Hollywood star took News Group Newspapers (NGN), which publishes The Sun, to court last year after an April 2018 column called Depp a “wife beater”.

Following an explosive three-week trial Mr Justice Nicol dismissed his libel claim against the newspaper and said the article was “substantially true”.

The judge ruled that Depp assaulted Heard on a dozen occasions and put her in “fear for her life” three times. He also rejected Depp’s contention that Heard was a “gold digger”.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star asked the Court of Appeal to grant permission for him to challenge the ruling, with the aim of having its findings overturned and a retrial ordered. But on Thursday the court dismissed his request.

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Announcing the ruling at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Lord Justice Underhill said: “We refuse Mr Depp‘s application to admit further evidence in support of his proposed appeal and we conclude that the appeal has no real prospect of success and that there is no other compelling reason for it to be heard.

“We accordingly refuse permission to appeal.”

A spokesperson for Heard said in a statement: “We are pleased – but by no means surprised – by the court’s denial of Mr Depp‘s application for appeal.

“The evidence presented in the UK case was overwhelming and undeniable.

“To reiterate, the original verdict was that Mr Depp committed domestic violence against Amber on no fewer than 12 occasions and she was left in fear of her life.

“The verdict and lengthy, well-reasoned judgment, including the confidential judgment, have been affirmed.

“Mr Depp‘s claim of new and important evidence was nothing more than a press strategy, and has been soundly rejected by the court.”

At a hearing last week, Depp’s lawyers asked the court to consider fresh evidence relating to what they said was Heard’s claim that she gave $7m (£5.5m) divorce settlement to charity.

His barrister, Andrew Caldecott QC, told the court that the claim was a “calculated and manipulative lie”.

But Adam Wolanski QC, representing The Sun’s publisher NGN, said the new evidence Depp wanted to rely on “would not have had any impact” on the result of the trial.

He also rejected Depp’s contention that Heard had lied about donating her divorce settlement to charity, saying: “The information does not demonstrate that Ms Heard lied.”

In his judgment, MrJustice Nicol concluded 12 of the 14 alleged incidents of domestic violence relied on by NGN in its defence of the actor’s claim did occur.

Days after the ruling in November, Depp announced he had been asked by Warner Brothers to resign from his role in the Harry Potter spin-off franchise Fantastic Beasts.

In a statement after Thursday's ruling, a spokesperson for The Sun said the tabloid “had every confidence that this leave to appeal application would not be granted and are pleased with today’s decision”.

They added: “The case had a full, fair and proper hearing, and today’s decision vindicates the courageous evidence that Amber Heard gave to the court about domestic abuse, despite repeated attempts to undermine and silence her by the perpetrator.

“The Sun will continue to stand up and campaign for victims of domestic abuse.”

Depp is embroiled in a separate libel battle in the US, having sued Heard personally over a 2018 Washington Post opinion piece in which she claimed to be a victim of domestic abuse but did not mention the actor by name.

The actor’s $50m (£35m) US case against Ms Heard was recently delayed until April 2022.

Johnny Depp’s lawyer, Joelle Rich of Schillings Partners, said in a statement following the British appeal court decision: “The evidence presented at last week’s hearing [the appeal of Mr Depp vs News Group Newspapers LTD] further demonstrates that there are clear and objective reasons to seriously question the decision reached in the UK court.

“Mr Depp looks forward to presenting the complete, irrefutable evidence of the truth in the US libel case against Ms Heard where she will have to provide full disclosure.”

Additional reporting by PA

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