Actor Johnny Depp has failed in his attempt to overturn the libel judgement that went against him in the High Court. The case centred around a story in The Sun that labelled him a “wife beater” which the initial judgement found to be “substantially true”. Depp had hoped to be able to overturn this ruling but was dealt a blow with permission to appeal refused after the court decided there was little prospect of being able to succeed.
In Depp v News Group Newspapers ( EWHC 2911 (QB)) the court had heard that Johnny Depp had assaulted his former wife Amber Heard on several occasions which had put her in “fear for her life”. Both Depp and Ms Heard had given evidence in a three week trial and the verdict was released in November with Mr Justice Nicol finding the allegations in the story to be true.
Depp immediately signalled his intention to appeal but the ruling in the High Court found that disputing the facts and the judges reasoning would face serious difficulties with little chance of success.
“The hearing before Nicol J was full and fair, and he gave thorough reasons for his conclusions which have not been shown even arguably to be vitiated by any error of approach or mistake of law.”Lord Justice Underhill
The barrister of Johnny Depp, Andrew Caldecott QC based the appeal arguments around a statement that Ms Heard had promised to donate the $7m proceedings from their divorce to two separate charities. Mr Caldecott stated that this hadn’t materialised and it was a “calculated and manipulative lie” which boosted her credibility and ultimately “tipped the scales against Mr Depp”.
Lord Justice Underhill did not believe this would affect the outcome stating: “We do not accept that there is any ground for believing that the judge may have been influenced by any such general perception as Mr Caldecott relies on”. He went on to say that little weight was put on this argument in the original trial and that “he does not refer to her charitable donation at all in the context of his central findings”.
A spokesperson for Ms Heard said: “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.”
Likewise a spokesperson for The Sun said: “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.”
Whilst this is likely the end of the UK libel case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, a separate case is running in the US. Depp is suing Heard over an opinion piece in The Washington Post for $50m which will be heard in April 2022.
A spokesperson for Johnny Depp said that he “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.”
Do you have a libel/defamation claim of your own? Alston Asquith has offices in London and Hertfordshire and can arrange a call to provide some initial advice on the steps to take.
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