LONDON – Hollywood star Johnny Depp on Monday lost his libel battle with a British tabloid that labelled him a “wife beater”, after a London High Court judge ruled he had repeatedly assaulted his former partner and put her in fear for her life.
In a ruling that could severely damage Depp’s reputation and career, Judge Andrew Nicol said he accepted claims from the actor’s ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, that he had violently assaulted her during their tempestuous five-year relationship.
“I have found that the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms Heard by Mr Depp have been proved to the civil standard,” said Nicol. “The claimant has not succeeded in his action for libel.”
Depp’s lawyers described the ruling as “perverse as it is bewildering”, and said it would be ridiculous for him not to appeal.
Depp, 57, star of films including “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Edward Scissorhands”, sued News Group Newspapers, publishers of the Sun, and one of its journalists, Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article which stated he had been violent towards Heard, 34.
The newspaper also questioned his casting in the “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” movie franchise.
Nicol ruled that the paper’s allegations were “substantially true”. “It follows that this claim is dismissed,” he said.
Depp’s lawyers said it was “troubling” that the judge had relied on Heard’s testimony while rejecting the evidence of police officers, her former assistant and other witnesses which they said had undermined her evidence.
“The judgment is so flawed that it would be ridiculous for Mr Depp not to appeal this decision,” law firm Schillings said.
The Sun said the ruling was a “stunning victory” for press freedom.
“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,” the paper said in a statement. (Reuters)