Key players in Johnny Depp’s libel action

By PA High Court Staff
·4-min read

Here are some of the key people in the trial of Johnny Depp’s libel claim against The Sun newspaper:

– Johnny Depp

Mr Depp has been on the Hollywood A-list for more than 30 years, becoming a household name for such characters as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean and Edward Scissorhands.

Actor Johnny Depp (centre) is bringing a libel claim against The Sun newspaper (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Johnny Depp came to court for ‘vindication’, his lawyer said (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The 57-year-old was in a relationship with French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis for around 14 years, and the couple have two children together.

He had previously dated model Kate Moss and actress Winona Ryder.

Mr Depp married model Amber Heard in February 2015.

They separated just over a year later.

He has gained a reputation for his versatile acting over the years and has been nominated for a number of awards, including the Oscar for best actor on three occasions.

He came to court not for money, but for “vindication”, his lawyer said, adding that Mr Depp wanted to “clear his reputation”.

– Amber Heard

Born and raised in Texas, Ms Heard is an actress and model.

Actress Amber Heard was the key witness for the defence in her ex-husband's libel claim against NGN (Victoria Jones/PA)
Amber Heard was the key witness for the defence in her ex-husband’s libel claim (Victoria Jones/PA)

Her early roles included an appearance in the comedy Pineapple Express, and more recently she has played Mera in Justice League and Aquaman.

She also appeared in Magic Mike XXL.

Ms Heard, 34, also starred opposite Mr Depp in 2011’s The Rum Diary.

Ms Heard was the key witness for the defence.

– Dan Wootton

New Zealand-born Dan Wootton has been The Sun’s executive editor since March 2018.

The article at the heart of Mr Depp’s libel claim was written by Mr Wootton for his weekly column in the newspaper.

Mr Wootton also presents the weekday Drivetime show on talkRadio and has his own podcast – The Dan Wootton Interview.

A showbiz reporter for many years, before joining The Sun, Mr Wootton had stints at a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Daily Mail, where he also worked as a columnist, and the now defunct News Of The World, where he was showbiz editor.

He was also showbiz presenter for ITV’s Lorraine show for 10 years.

Mr Wootton did not give evidence at the trial and Johnny Depp’s lawyer David Sherborne, in his closing statement, said Mr Wootton’s name had “for some reason been as absent from these proceedings as Mr Wootton himself”.

– Sasha Wass QC

As lead counsel for News Group Newspapers (NGN), Sasha Wass played a key role in the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century.

Court artist sketch of Johnny Depp being questioned by Sasha Wass QC at the High Court in London
Court artist sketch of Johnny Depp being questioned by Sasha Wass QC at the High Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

The barrister is no stranger to high-profile lawsuits, previously working on a number of notable cases in her almost four decades-long career, including working as part of the defence team for Rose West – who was convicted of 10 murders in 1995.

She was the prosecutor in the case of disgraced children’s entertainer Rolf Harris when he was convicted of a string of indecent assaults in 2014.

– David Sherborne

As counsel for Mr Depp, David Sherborne often took centre stage at the High Court.

Mr Sherborne has a reputation as the barrister the rich and famous turn to for legal assistance – his previous client list includes Diana, Princess of Wales, Hollywood actor Michael Douglas and former prime minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie.

Lawyer David Sherborne, was Johnny Depp's barrister in the actor's libel action against News Group Newspapers (NGN) )Andrew Matthews/PA)
David Sherborne was Johnny Depp’s barrister in the actor’s libel action against NGN (Andrew Matthews/PA)

He has also represented dozens of claimants, including celebrities, suing NGN over phone hacking at the News Of The World.

– Eleanor Laws QC

Ms Laws also represented Mr Depp, carrying out much of the cross-examination of witnesses including Ms Heard.

With particular expertise in murder and serious sexual offences cases, she is described on the QEB Hollis Whiteman chambers website as “an expert tactician dedicated to pulling apart the issues of a case to gain the absolutely best result for the client”.

She has previously represented paedophile football coach Barry Bennell, and former England footballer Adam Johnson in an appeal against his conviction.

– Jennifer Robinson

The Australian barrister advised Ms Heard during Mr Depp’s libel action, but did not have a role in the trial.

She worked as part of the legal team for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during extradition proceedings brought by Sweden in 2010, and as he fights extradition to the US over charges related to the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified documents.