UK judge says Depp breached court order in The Sun libel case

LONDON • A British judge ruled on Monday that actor Johnny Depp has breached a court order for failing to disclose texts that allegedly show him attempting to procure drugs, reports USA Today.

Judge Andrew Nicol's ruling is part of the 57-year-old's libel action against British tabloid newspaper The Sun.

In 2016, Depp's then estranged wife, actress Amber Heard, obtained a restraining order against him after allegations of abuse, which he denied.

Following her allegations, The Sun published an article in 2018, calling him a "wife-beater".

Depp sued Heard last year and the newspaper this year for defamation. The pair finalised their divorce in 2017.

His libel suit was filed against The Sun's parent company, News Group Newspapers, as well as the newspaper's executive editor, Mr Dan Wootton.

The hearing was scheduled for March, but was postponed to July 7 due to the coronavirus.

The Sun's lawyer, Mr Adam Wolanski, argued that the case should be dismissed as Depp failed to disclose "Australian drug texts".

Between late February and early March 2015, shortly before "a three-day ordeal of physical assaults", according to Heard, the actor was allegedly taking MDMA (Ecstasy) and drinking heavily.

The Sun's team claims that a series of texts between Depp and his assistant Nathan Holmes proves that the actor was trying to procure drugs at the time.

It also argues that withholding the texts endangers the defendant's ability to get a fair trial, and is a breach of a previous court order requiring the actor to provide all documents from separate libel proceedings against Heard in the United States.

Depp's attorney argued that the texts did not relate to the allegations of violence and, therefore, were not relevant to the case.

On Monday, the judge ruled that the actor had breached the disclosure order. However, he did not immediately throw out the case.

Depp and Heard are both expected to give evidence in person at the London trial. Depp's former partners, Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder, are also expected to provide evidence.

Besides the alleged incident in Australia, The Sun's defence team will refer to 13 separate allegations of domestic violence incidents between early 2013 and May 2016.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2020, with the headline 'UK judge says Depp breached court order in The Sun libel case'. Print Edition | Subscribe