Johnny Depp arrives at court on final day of £350,000 libel trial

Johnny Depp arrives at court after missing yesterday’s hearing as his lawyer says he’s not a wife-beater on final day of £350,000 libel trial

  • The Pirates of the Caribbean star was greeted this morning by dozens of fans with flowers, gifts and banners 
  • He was yesterday described as a ‘misogynist’ who subjected ex-wife Amber Heard to a campaign of abuse
  • Depp, who was absent yesterday, is suing News Group Newspapers, publishers of The Sun and Dan Wootton 

Johnny Depp received a rapturous welcome from fans today as he arrived at the High Court for the final day of his libel trial against The Sun, in which he is looking to claim £350,000 in damages.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star missed yesterday’s hearing but was greeted on arrival this morning by dozens of fans outside the court with flowers, gifts and banners reading: ‘Justice for Johnny’ and ‘Abuse has no gender. Men can be victims too.’

Depp was bundled through a boisterous crowd by his bodyguards as he arrived at the main entrance dressed in sharp grey suit and sporting a black bandana. 

After making his way to the main steps, he stopped and turned, waving and blowing kisses at his fans as he milked the adulation.

Around 40 other adoring fans, all of them women, lined the inside hall of the court with Depp walking along, hugging and kissing them and thanking them for the support as he made his way for the start of the day’s proceedings.

Depp was at the High Court to hear his barrister David Sherborne deliver his final submission, following a trial which has gripped the showbiz world with sensational details of his marriage to Amber Heard.

The actor, 57, is suing News Group Newspapers, publishers of the Sun and executive editor Dan Wootton over a 2018 article which referred to him as a ‘wife beater’. 

It appeared under the headline ‘Gone Potty How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife-beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?’

Johnny Depp received a rapturous welcome from fans today as he arrived at the High Court for the final day of libel trial against The Sun

Amber Heard waves to supporters as she arrives at the High Court this morning as the blockbuster Hollywood trial edges towards its conclusion

Amber Heard and Bianca Butti held hands as they arrived at court for the sixteenth day of the high-profile libel trial

The Pirates of the Caribbean star missed yesterday’s hearing but was greeted on arrival this morning by dozens of fans outside the court with flowers, gifts and banners reading: ‘Justice for Johnny’ and ‘Abuse has no gender. Men can be victims too’

Johnny Depp v The Sun: Key issues in libel trial at London’s High Court 

These are the key issues the trial judge, Mr Justice Nicol, has to determine.

– Whether the April 2018 article by the tabloid’s executive editor Dan Wootton was defamatory of Depp. Under the Defamation Act 2013, a statement is not defamatory unless its publication causes ‘serious harm to the reputation of the claimant’.

– The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), is defending the claim and relying on a defence of truth. It is for the publisher to prove that the allegations made in the article are ‘substantially true’.

– The meaning of the article, which is defined as what it would mean to the ‘reasonable reader’, will have to be determined by the judge. But NGN’s lawyers say the differences between the rival meanings contended by each side are ‘not significant’ and the outcome of the case will therefore not turn on meaning.

– Depp’s case is that the article bore the meaning that he was ‘guilty, on overwhelming evidence, of serious domestic violence against his then wife, causing significant injury and leading to her fearing for her life, for which he was constrained to pay no less than £5 million to compensate her, and which resulted in him being subjected to a continuing court restraining order; and for that reason is not fit to work in the film industry’. He strenuously denies the allegations and claims he ‘has never hit or committed any acts of physical violence against Ms Heard’.

– The meaning which NGN will seek to prove is true is that the Claimant beat his wife Amber Heard, causing her to suffer significant injury and on occasion leading her to fearing for her life. They rely on 14 separate allegations of violence and allege more generally that Depp was ‘controlling and verbally and physically abusive’ towards Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and or drugs, throughout their relationship. NGN’s lawyers say an important issue for the judge to decide will be what substances Depp was using during the relationship. They contend that he frequently lost control of himself, partly because of his heavy drug and alcohol use, and also that his memory has been impaired by his heavy use of drugs.

– If Depp wins his case, the judge will have to decide what level of compensation he should receive for the harm to his reputation and for the ‘distress, hurt and humiliation caused’. There is an upper limit on general damages for libel of £300,000 to £325,000. However, if he succeeds, Depp may also be entitled to aggravated damages. The actor is also asking for a final injunction against NGN, who his legal team say ‘have retained the article on their website and maintained their allegation to the bitter end’.

A written submission presented to Mr Justice Nicol, who is likely to deliver his judgment at the end of September, claimed that allegations contained in the article are untrue and go ‘to the very heart’ of Depp’s integrity and who he is as a person.

It stated: ‘The libel in this case is of the utmost seriousness published to the world at large. It goes to very heart of who Mr Depp is as a person. Is he a violent monster who put his ex-wife in fear for her life or has she falsely accused him of the most heinous conduct?

‘The allegation could hardly be more serious. The allegation of domestic violence and causing serious injury to Ms Heard and putting her in fear of her life goes to the heart of Mr Depp’s integrity.’

The Sun’s article, it continued, had maliciously compared Depp to Harvey Weinstein and included him in the ‘rogues gallery of abusers’ that the #MeToo campaign had exposed.

Mr Justice Nicol was asked to consider the professional and personal damage done to Depp’s reputation, which it was alleged, was not challenged by The Sun’s lawyers when he was giving evidence.

Mr Sherborne told the court that Depp has never been charged with any domestic abuse offences or of being violent towards any woman he has been in previous relationships with. The court was reminded of the actor’s evidence in which he referred to himself as a ‘Southern Gentleman’ who never ‘hits women.’

Mr Sherborne added: ‘He has never hit a woman in his entire life; full stop, period, nada.

‘It’s not just a Southern Gentleman thing but it’s also because he (Depp) was subjected to domestic abuse by his mother. Not only has he never hit a woman in his life, but he has never been accused of it.’

In a hard-hitting closing speech, Mr Sherborne questioned the credibility of Heard, claiming that her evidence was ‘shifting’ and ‘inconsistent’.

He reminded the court once again of her testimony that she punched Depp in March 2015 in defence of her sister after hearing a rumour that he had pushed Kate Moss down the stairs when he was dating her.

Mr Sherborne described Heard’s allegation that Depp was violent towards Moss as ‘unscripted malevolence’ which she made up while giving evidence two weeks ago.

He added: ‘This was a gratuitous and totally invented reference to Kate Moss. If you want to see the credibility of the witness that this case is so heavily dependent on, that tells you a lot.

‘This invention shows that Miss Heard’s evidence just can’t be relied upon.’

The court was told that claims by Heard and The Sun’s lawyers that Depp is a violent man are simply not true.

Mr Sherborne added: ‘He’s a generous, warm and gentle individual. He is a peaceful man. He’s not the man that Miss Heard and the defendants have constantly sought to portray.’

He went on to say the court had heard ‘hugely varied accounts … of what went on in the relationship between Mr Depp and Ms Heard’.

Depp was bundled through a boisterous crowd by his bodyguards as he arrived at the main entrance dressed in sharp grey suit and sporting a black bandana

After making his way to the main steps, he stopped and turned, waving and blowing kisses at his fans as he milked the adulation

The court was told yesterday that Depp’s ‘deep misogyny’ was at the root of his anger that manifested as violence towards Heard, pictured today

Johnny Depp’s alleged violence towards Amber Heard during a night in December 2015 is ‘supported by a wealth of evidence,’ the High Court heard yesterday.

The Sun’s lawyer Sasha Wass QC said: ‘Mr Depp was intoxicated and violent. He headbutted her, he chased her up the stairs, grabbed hold of her hair and dragged her by the hair into PH (penthouse) four.

‘He threw her onto the bed and hurled himself on top of her with such force that the bed frame was damaged.’

Ms Wass said Johnny Depp then went to the kitchen in penthouse three and wrote in gold paint: ‘Why be a fraud? All is bulls***.’

She said that after that incident, Ms Heard messaged her publicist Jodie Gottlieb to say she had had ‘an accident’ and was ‘really bruised and might have a black eye or two’.

Ms Wass said: ‘If this was an elaborate hoax, why would Ms Heard be protecting Mr Depp at this stage?

‘Because she is not telling her publicist she was assaulted by her husband – which is, we suggest, the truth.

‘She is pretending it was an accident and, for the avoidance of doubt, there is no room for accident in the injuries Ms Heard suffered, because it was not only the headbutt… but it was the pulling out of her hair in clumps and the damage caused to her scalp.’

Ms Wass said Mr Depp admitted in evidence that there may have been a headbutt, but it was accidental.

However the barrister said there was ‘no way he was dragging Ms Heard by her hair in a way that was anything other than deliberate’

He added: ‘It would be easy to lose focus on precisely why we are all here … why the claimant has subjected himself to days of cross-examination.’ 

Mr Sherborne told the court that the article referred to ‘overwhelming evidence’ that Depp was violent towards Ms Heard and stated ‘there is a detailed history of domestic abuse incidents, some of which led to her fearing for her life’.

He said: ‘So serious is the charge that is made against Depp that Mr Wootton calls on (JK Rowling) to recast someone else in the role.’

Addressing his own use of the word ‘charge’, the barrister described it as ‘one of the great ironies in this case: there is no charge ever filed against Depp.

‘This is not a mere accusation – the article leaves no room for doubt whatsoever for its readership of millions.’

Mr Sherborne said The Sun and Mr Wootton were ‘acting as both judge and jury, and the defendants plainly and squarely state that Depp is guilty (of a) series of serious and violent criminal offences’.

The court was told how evidence has not been heard ‘from a single journalist’ in relation to the article as Depp’s representative referred sarcastically to the ‘journalistic excellence’ The Sun was seeking to defend.

The barrister said the article was ‘not researched at all’ and that it was presented in a ‘deliberately and wholly one-sided manner’.

The court was told yesterday that Depp’s ‘deep misogyny’ was at the root of his anger that manifested as violence towards Heard, as emails and texts were read out in which he used words like ‘whore’ and ‘slut’ to refer to his ex-wife and other women.

It was also heard how the Hollywood star’s self-description as a ‘Southern gentlemen who had respect for women’ was ‘entirely untrue’. 

The hard-hitting claims were made as Sasha Wass QC, representing the Sun newspaper, delivered the defence’s final submission in the high-profile libel case which has rocked the showbiz world with sensational revelations of Depp’s troubled relationship with the Aquaman actress. 

Over the past three weeks, the hearing has heard from Depp, Heard and 25 other witnesses who have provided graphic testimony of their stormy relationship and details of Depp’s excessive use of alcohol and drug binges. 

While Depp was absent yesterday, Heard did attend, and was pictured smiling alongside girlfriend Bianca Butti, before waving at awaiting fans outside the Royal Courts of Justice.  

Ms Wass said there was ‘overwhelming evidence of domestic violence or wife-beating behaviour, cataloged over a three-year period.’ 

She said Depp was ‘a hopeless addict who repeatedly lost his self-control and all ability to restrain his anger.’

‘Permeating all of the evidence in this case is the character of Mr. Depp himself – his well-documented evidence of violence and destruction over his adult life which have occurred when he was under the influence of drink and drugs.’

Ms Wass added that Depp ‘was subject to irrational mood swings and abnormal behavioral patterns, which would not have been present when Mr. Depp was clean and sober, and Mr. Depp has a name for this metamorphosed entity – namely, The Monster.’

She said: ‘The other aspect which is important in terms of substance abuse is Mr Depp’s recollection of his own disgraceful conduct, which is so severely impaired by drug misuse that he may not even have been aware of the extent of his violence and terrifying behaviour which, on more than one of these pleaded incidents, put Ms Heard in fear of her life.’

Depp and Heard met on the set of the 2011 comedy ‘The Rum Diary’ and married in Los Angeles in February 2015. Heard filed for divorce the following year, and the divorce was finalized in 2017.

The former spouses have both been in court during three weeks of testimony at the grand neo-Gothic court building.

Ms Wass reminded Mr Justice Nicol there were ‘well-documented episodes of violence and destruction’ over Depp’s adult life and that the actor had accepted he was violent to inanimate objects but not people.

However, she said there was an incident earlier in his career when he assaulted a photographer with a plank of wood when under the influence of drink and drugs.

She also said his evidence that he was not violent towards people was ‘meaningless’ when he was as intoxicated as he was on occasions and ‘wouldn’t have known what he was doing’.

Ms Wass continued: ‘In answer to what we suggest is overwhelming evidence of domestic violence or wife-beating behaviour, catalogued over a three-year period between 2013 and 2016, Mr Depp’s response is to claim that he is a victim of an elaborate hoax that has been perpetrated against him by Ms Heard and her friends.’

The barrister said Depp had accused Heard and her friends of ‘having painted on injuries, manipulated photographs and destroyed property which they then went on to photograph in order to create what he describes as some sort of insurance policy for Ms Heard’.

Ms Wass added: ‘What exactly Ms Heard was insuring against in the course of this hoax remains unexplained.’

She told the court that such a hoax ‘would have entailed Ms Heard engaging in a pre-planned conspiracy over the period of the entire relationship with Mr Depp’, adding: ‘Such a suggestion, we say, is risible.’

Ms Wass told the court: ‘The approach taken by Mr Depp from the time Ms Heard obtained a domestic violence restraining order against him on May 27 2016 was as follows: to deny that he ever assaulted Ms Heard, to accuse Ms Heard of being the violent party and to reverse his role with hers.’

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