Johnny Depp's Libel Trial Against 'The Sun' Moving Forward

Carla Harmon
July 4, 2020

The actor (left, in February), 57, is suing the tabloid's publisher News Group Newspapers and executive editor Dan Wootton over a 2018 article which referred to Depp as a "wife beater". Depp strenuously denies Heard's claims.

Actor Johnny Depp's libel claim against The Sun newspaper over an article which referred to him as a wife beater will go ahead next week following a High Court ruling.

Adam Wolanski, the attorney for publisher News Group Newspapers, asked the judge to throw out the case, arguing the actor had breached a court order by not providing text messages relating to his alleged drug use.

On Monday, Judge Andrew Nicol said that Depp had violated the court's order to comply.

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

The Sun's lawyers applied for the case to be dismissed on the grounds that Depp failed to disclose text messages he exchanged with an assistant showing that he tried to buy "MDMA and other narcotics" while he was in Australia with Heard in 2015. "Despite the breach which I have found and despite Mr. Wolanski's submissions, I am not persuaded that the trial of the claim would be unfair".

The judge said: "The Australian drug texts were adverse to the claimant's pleaded case and/or were supportive of the defendants' pleaded case". David Sherborne, who is representing Pirates of the Caribbean actor, referenced the CCTV footage obtained from Depp's LA penthouse.

Mr Wolanski said: "In my submission, unless the whole disclosure exercise is carried out afresh with a different legal team, the defendants can not have a fair trial".

Mr Justice Nicol refused an application by Depp's legal team for an order requiring Heard to disclose evidence, including a covert audio recording made of a conversation between herself and her former husband in July 2016.

The texts were among documents submitted as part of separate libel proceedings Depp is pursuing against Heard in the U.S.

The alleged incident in Australia is one of 14 separate allegations of domestic violence, between early 2013 and May 2016, that NGN relies on in its pleaded defence to Mr Depp's claim. Depp and his team have accused her of sleeping with James Franco and Elon Musk.

Depp's former partners, the French singer Vanessa Paradis, and the Hollywood actress Winona Ryder, are due to give evidence.

The judge's legal ruling said: "Ms Heard has provided assistance to the defendants and has done so despite whatever may have been said by the claimant's United States lawyers".

Depp sued Heard last year and the newspaper this year for defamation.

The judge said that the ruling was subject to Depp "not seeking sanctions against Heard" for "any breach of the Virginia protective order because of such assistance as she has already or may in the course of this litigation give to the defendants".

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