British Court Refuses to Let Johnny Depp Appeal Libel Ruling

Depp
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

(AFP) — A UK court on Thursday refused Hollywood superstar Johnny Depp the right to appeal a ruling that upheld claims in a newspaper article that he beat his ex-wife Amber Heard.

Two judges at the Court of Appeal dismissed his application to challenge a lower court ruling in his high-profile libel claim against The Sun tabloid for a 2018 article that branded him a “wife-beater”.

It said the hearing in the High Court had been “full and fair” and the judge “gave thorough reasons for his conclusions which have not been shown even arguably to be vitiated by any error of approach or mistake of law”.

The judge in the November decision ruled against the Pirates of the Caribbean star and ordered him to pay the newspaper’s publishers News Group Newspapers (NGN) £628,000 ($873,000, 733,000 euros) in legal costs.

In his application for the appeal earlier this month, Depp’s lawyers cast doubt on testimony given by his ex-wife Amber Heard at the original libel trial.

They argued in submissions she had given the whole of her divorce settlement to charity had prejudiced the case against Depp, while only a fraction had been paid.

The Court of Appeal judgment said Depp was unlikely to “overturn the findings of a trial judge on purely factual questions”.

A spokeswoman for The Sun said after the ruling that the newspaper “had every confidence that this leave to appeal application would not be granted and are pleased with today’s decision.

“The case had a full, fair and proper hearing, and today’s decision vindicates the courageous evidence that Amber Heard gave to the court about domestic abuse, despite repeated attempts to undermine and silence her by the perpetrator.”

Excruciating detail 

The failed libel action has already damaged Depp’s career, with the actor saying afterwards he was asked to step down from his role in the “Fantastic Beasts” film franchise based on the book by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

The case, which laid bare the actor’s battle with drink and drugs, was dubbed “the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century”.

NGN relied on the defence of truth, arguing it had a valid basis for the 2018 story by detailing 14 alleged instances of Depp abusing Heard.

The judge dismissed Depp’s claim after three weeks of revelations about the couple’s stormy relationship, saying the article had been proven to be “substantially true”.

Depp brought the action because he said The Sun‘s allegations had done a “disservice” to the #MeToo movement it was trying to support, his lawyer David Sherborne said.

The 16 days of proceedings in July, which both Depp and Heard attended, exposed the couple’s troubled and volatile relationship in excruciating detail.

Depp faced days of cross-examination in which the star admitted to only hazily remembering some events because he was high on drugs.

But he vehemently rejected accusations he hurt Heard while battling a drug addiction over a three-year span that ended with her 2016 decision to seek a restraining order and file for divorce.

He is also suing Heard in the United States over a 2018 Washington Post article in which she claimed to be a victim of domestic violence.

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