Johnny Depp may launch appeal over ‘perverse’ ruling he assaulted Amber Heard

By PA High Court Staff
·5-min read

Johnny Depp may appeal against a “perverse and bewildering” High Court ruling which concluded that he assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard.

The 57-year-old sued The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), over a 2018 article which labelled him a “wife beater”.

The Hollywood star brought legal action over the column by the newspaper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, which referred to “overwhelming evidence” that the actor attacked Ms Heard, 34, during their relationship.

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

He found that Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard on a dozen occasions, putting her in “fear for her life” during three of them.

In a statement after the ruling, Mr Depp’s solicitor, Jenny Afia, from Schillings law firm, said: “This decision is as perverse as it is bewildering.

“Most troubling is the judge’s reliance on the testimony of Amber Heard, and corresponding disregard of the mountain of counter-evidence from police officers, medical practitioners, her own former assistant, other unchallenged witnesses and an array of documentary evidence which completely undermined the allegations, point by point.

“All of this was overlooked. The judgment is so flawed that it would be ridiculous for Mr Depp not to appeal this decision.”

In the ruling, Mr Justice Nicol said: “I have found that the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms Heard by Mr Depp have been proved to the civil standard.”

The judge said he was “not persuaded” that an alleged “incident of violence” in Los Angeles in December 2014 “constituted a physical assault of Ms Heard by Mr Depp”.

He also said he could not rule that an alleged incident in LA in November 2015 had been proven because it was not put to Mr Depp in cross-examination.

However, he found that 12 of the 14 alleged incidents of domestic violence relied on by NGN did occur.

The judge found that Mr Depp put Ms Heard “in fear of her life” during what the actress described as a “three-day hostage situation” in Australia in March 2015.

He also said he accepted that a further “confidential” allegation made against Mr Depp regarding the incident in Australia had happened.

Mr Justice Nicol found that Ms Heard was in fear for her life during incidents on the Eastern and Oriental Express in South East Asia in August 2015 and again in LA in December of the same year.

Johnny Depp court case
Actress Amber Heard made a statement on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice in London on the final day of the trial (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mr Justice Nicol also said “a recurring theme in Mr Depp’s evidence was that Ms Heard had constructed a hoax and that she had done this as an ‘insurance policy’”, and that Ms Heard was a “gold-digger”.

But he added: “I do not accept this characterisation of Ms Heard.”

The judge also said that Ms Heard donating her seven million US dollar (£5.4 million) settlement to charity was “hardly the act one would expect of a gold-digger”.

The biggest English libel trial of the 21st century garnered worldwide attention as it unfolded over three weeks in July at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Mr Depp and Ms Heard attended the 16-day trial, which featured days of high drama, claims of brutal violence and sensational revelations about their tempestuous relationship.

The court heard evidence from both stars, along with friends and relatives of the couple, and several former and current employees.

Mr Depp spent around 20 hours in the witness box over five days, facing intense questioning about his Hollywood lifestyle, his use of drink and drugs, allegations of violence, and his friendships and associations with famous faces including Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and musician Sir Elton John.

As the trial drew to a close, Ms Heard stood outside on the steps of the High Court and said she stood by her evidence and would “place her faith in British justice”.

In an April 2018 column in The Sun, Mr Wootton asked how Harry Potter author JK Rowling could be “genuinely happy” that Mr Depp had been cast in the latest film in the Fantastic Beasts spin-off franchise amid the allegations by Ms Heard.

Mr Depp denied having been violent to Ms 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 Mr Depp was “controlling and verbally and physically abusive towards Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs” between early 2013 and May 2016, when the couple split.

After the ruling, a spokesman for The Sun said: “The Sun has stood up and campaigned for the victims of domestic abuse for over 20 years.

Johnny Depp court case
Johnny Depp attended the trial held over three weeks at the Royal Courts of Justice in London (Yui Mok/PA)

“Domestic abuse victims must never be silenced and we thank the judge for his careful consideration and thank Amber Heard for her courage in giving evidence to the court.”

Ms Heard’s US lawyer, Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, said the actress’s legal team will be presenting more evidence in Mr Depp’s separate libel action in Virginia against Ms Heard over a Washington Post opinion piece.

Ms Bredehoft said: “For those of us present for the London High Court trial, this decision and judgment are not a surprise.

“Very soon, we will be presenting even more voluminous evidence in the US.”

It is believed the total legal costs of the case will be in the region of £3 million to £5 million.