Johnny Depp loses 'wife beater' libel case

Johnny Depp (left) had told the court he was never violent towards Amber Heard. PHOTOS: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - Hollywood star Johnny Depp on Monday (Nov 2) lost his libel battle with a British tabloid which labelled him a "wife beater" after a High Court judge ruled that the paper's allegations were "substantially true".

Depp, 57, famed for his role in films such as Pirates Of The Caribbean and Edward Scissorhands, had 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 his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, 34.

It also questioned his casting in the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them movie franchise.

Over the course of three weeks at London's High Court in July, Judge Andrew Nicol heard evidence from both Depp and Heard about their fiery marriage, alleged affairs, his hedonistic lifestyle and battle with drink and drugs, and their furious rows. Both accused the other of violent outbursts.

"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, accepting that 12 of the 14 assaults had taken place.

"It follows that this claim is dismissed," Nicol added.

Heard said Depp would turn into a jealous alter ego, "the monster", after bingeing on drugs and alcohol.

He had often threatened to kill her, she said.

Heard detailed 14 occasions of extreme violence when she said the actor choked, punched, slapped, head-butted, throttled and kicked her.

Depp had told the court he was never violent towards his ex-wife, saying her claims were a hoax and that he had lost the tip of a finger after she threw a vodka bottle at him during one particularly ferocious row in Australia.

Nicol rejected Depp's characterisation of Heard as a gold-digger and his allegation that her claims were a hoax.

"For those of us present for the London High Court trial, this decision and judgment are not a surprise," Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, Heard's US lawyer said in a statement.

Depp has also filed a US$50 million (S$68 million) defamation lawsuit against Heard in a Virginia court over an opinion piece she wrote in The Washington Post.

"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 Sun said in a statement.

The court's decision on Monday is perverse and flawed, and it would be ridiculous if Depp did not appeal, the actor's lawyers said.

"This decision is as perverse as it is bewildering," Depp's British law firm Schillings said in statement on Monday. "The judgment is so flawed that it would be ridiculous for Mr Depp not to appeal this decision," the statement said.

"In the meantime, we hope that in contrast to this case, the ongoing libel proceedings in America are equitable, with both parties providing full disclosure rather than one side strategically cherry picking what evidence can and cannot be relied upon."

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