Johnny Depp loses libel action over ‘wife beater' article

Tabloid newspaper said Hollywood star had been violent towards ex-wife Amber Heard

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 20, 2020 US actor Johnny Depp arrives to attend on day ten of his libel trial against News Group Newspapers (NGN), at the High Court in London, on July 20, 2020. Hollywood star Johnny Depp will learn on November 2, 2020  if he has won his libel lawsuit against British newspaper The Sun for branding him a "wife-beater" in a case that laid bare his chaotic lifestyle. Judge Andrew Nicol will deliver his long-awaited verdict at 1000 GMT, after three weeks of rancorous testimony at the High Court in London that included claims of drug abuse and domestic violence. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor sued the tabloid's publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN) and the author of the article over claims he was violent to ex-wife Amber Heard during their volatile two-year marriage.
 / AFP / Tolga AKMEN

Hollywood star Johnny Depp has lost his libel case against a British tabloid newspaper over an article which labelled him a "wife beater".

Depp, 57, sued News Group Newspapers, publishers of The Sun, and one of its journalists, Dan Wootton, over the 2018 story which stated he had been violent towards his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, 34.

The paper also questioned his casting in the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them movie franchise.

Over the course of three weeks at London's Old Bailey in July, judge Andrew Nicol heard evidence from both Mr Depp and Ms Heard about their tempestuous marriage, alleged affairs, his hedonistic lifestyle and battle with drink and drugs, and their furious rows.

Both accused the other of violent outbursts.

"I accept that the defendants have shown that the words they published were substantially true in the meanings I have held them to bear," the judge said in his ruling.

"It follows that this claim is dismissed."

Addressing their court win, the newspaper said: "The Sun has stood up and campaigned for the victims of domestic abuse for over twenty years.

"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."

Ms Heard said Mr 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.

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

Mr 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.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star acknowledged heavy drug use, saying he took cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and magic mushrooms, and became addicted to painkillers.

But he denied that drugs made him violent.

“I am certainly not a violent person, especially with women,” he said.

Ms Heard insisted she was telling the truth and said she had spoken out reluctantly.

“What woman has ever benefited from being a victim of domestic violence?” she asked in court.

Judge Nicol rejected Mr Depp's characterisation of Ms 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, Ms Heard's US lawyer said.

Mr Depp has also filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Ms Heard in a Virginia court over an opinion piece she wrote in The Washington Post.

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