Amber Heard pleads guilty in Australian dog smuggling spat

Amber Heard pleaded guilty on Monday to providing a false immigration document amid allegations she smuggled the couple’s dogs into Australia, but managed to avoid jail time.

Johnny Depp and his wife, Amber Heard, leave the Southport Magistrates Court on Australia’s Gold Coast on April 18. Dave Hunt / AAP / Reuters

SYDNEY // Amber Heard, the wife of American actor Johnny Depp, pleaded guilty on Monday to providing a false immigration document amid allegations she smuggled the couple’s dogs into Australia, but managed to avoid jail time.

Prosecutors dropped two more serious charges that Ms Heard illegally imported the Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, into the country last year, when Mr Depp was filming the fifth movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. A conviction on the illegal importation counts could have sent the actress to prison for up to 10 years.

The false documents charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a fine of more than A$10,000 (Dh28,151), but Magistrate Bernadette Callaghan sentenced Ms Heard to a one-month good behaviour bond.

The condition means she will have to pay a A$1,000 fine if she commits any offences in Australia over the next month.

Earlier, Ms Heard’s lawyer, Jeremy Kirk, told the Southport Magistrates Court on Queensland’s Gold Coast that his client never meant to lie on her incoming passenger card by failing to declare she had animals with her. In truth, Mr Kirk said, she was simply jetlagged and assumed her assistants had sorted out the paperwork.

Prosecutor Peter Callaghan said ignorance and fatigue were no excuse.

“The laws apply to everyone,” he said.

The debacle over the dogs began last May, when Barnaby Joyce, the Australian agriculture minister, accused Mr Depp of smuggling the terriers aboard his private jet when he returned to Australia to resume filming the Pirates movie.

Australia has strict quarantine regulations to prevent diseases such as rabies from spreading to its shores. Bringing pets into the country involves applying for a permit and quarantine on arrival of at least 10 days.

“If we start letting movie stars – even though they’ve been the sexiest man alive twice – to come into our nation [with pets], then why don’t we just break the laws for everybody?” Mr Joyce said at the time. “It’s time that Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the United States.”

Mr Depp and Ms Heard were given 72 hours to send Pistol and Boo back to the US, with officials warning that the dogs would otherwise be put down. The dogs boarded a flight home just hours before the deadline ran out.

Mr Depp and Ms Heard made an apology on video that was played in court during Monday’s hearing.

“If you disrespect Australian law,” Mr Depp says, “they will tell you firmly.”

* Associated Press