Johnny Depp loses “wife beater” libel claim

Today Mr Justice Nicol handed down his judgment in what has been dubbed the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century: actor Johnny Depp’s libel claim against the publisher of The Sun newspaper and its Executive Editor, Dan Wootton.

Mr Depp sued over articles published on 27 and 28 April 2018 headlined “How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?” and other headlines. The Defendants relied on the defence of Truth and sought to prove that Mr Depp beat his wife, actress Amber Heard, causing her to suffer significant injury and on occasion leading to her fearing for her life.

Following a 16-day trial in July this year at which Mr Depp and Ms Heard gave evidence, Mr Justice Nicol has found that during their relationship Mr Depp committed 12 out of the 14 incidents of serious violent physical assault against Ms Heard which had been relied on by the Defendants, and that on three such occasions Ms Heard feared for her life.

Accordingly, the Defendants’ defence of Truth was established and Mr Depp’s claim has been dismissed.

The judgment can be found here.

A 5RB case report can be found here.

5RB’s David Sherborne and Kate Wilson (instructed by Schillings) act for Mr Depp, with Eleanor Laws QC.

5RB’s Adam Wolanski QC and Clara Hamer (instructed by Simons Muirhead and Burton LLP) act for the publisher of The Sun and Mr Wootton, with Sasha Wass QC.

There were a number of previous decisions in this matter relating to issues such as disclosure, some of which can be found here, here, here, here and here.