Closing submissions to begin at Johnny Depp’s libel trial

Closing submissions to begin at Johnny Depp’s libel trial
Johnny Depp court case

After almost three weeks, the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century is drawing to a close.

Johnny Depp’s case against News Group Newspapers (NGN), publisher of The Sun, and its executive editor Dan Wootton over a 2018 article which labelled him a “wife beater” has gripped the global media.

On Monday, NGN’s legal team will make closing submissions to Mr Justice Nicol, followed by Mr Depp’s lawyers the following day.

The Pirates Of The Caribbean actor has attended every day of the trial at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, arriving each morning to be greeted by photographers, and an increasing number of fans.

Actress Amber Heard arrives at the High Court (Aaron Chown/PA)

His ex-wife Amber Heard, 34, who alleges Mr Depp was violent towards her during their relationship – which he denies – has also been attending.

Both have taken their turn in the witness box to be quizzed about intimate details of their relationship, their personalities and their lifestyles.

Mr Depp, 57, was the first to be questioned, at one point describing his tempestuous relationship with Ms Heard as “a crime scene waiting to happen” and denying her allegations that he put her in fear for her life; claims he said were “a choreographed hoax”.

The Hollywood star was asked about 14 allegations of domestic violence which NGN rely on in their defence against Mr Depp’s claim – all of which the actor denies – as well as his past relationships with women including Vanessa Paradis, Winona Ryder and Kate Moss, and his well-documented use of drink and drugs.

He accused Ms Heard of “building a dossier very early on” in their relationship to align herself with the #MeToo movement.

And he told the court no other woman had ever accused him of hitting them.

Amber Heard being cross examined (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

In her evidence, Ms Heard claimed her ex-husband threatened to kill her “many times, especially later in our relationship”, and would blame his actions on a “self-created third party” he called “the monster” – who she said she was “terrified of”.

In a witness statement, Ms Heard accused Mr Depp of verbal and physical abuse, including screaming, swearing, punching, slapping, kicking, headbutting and choking her, as well as “extremely controlling and intimidating behaviour”.

She also said Mr Depp was “extremely jealous” and accused her of having affairs with stars including Leonardo DiCaprio, whom he nicknamed “pumpkin-head” after Ms Heard auditioned with him.

The High Court heard disputed accounts of a three-day trip to Australia in March 2015, which Ms Heard described as a “three-day hostage situation”.

Mr Depp severed his finger during the trip – he claimed Ms Heard caused the injury when she threw a vodka bottle at him, while Ms Heard claimed Depp injured his finger himself.

Much evidence was given about the now infamous “defecation incident” – in which faeces were found in the couple’s bed the day after Ms Heard’s birthday party in April 2016.

Mr Depp told the court he was “convinced” Ms Heard “or one of her cohort” was involved in the episode.

Johnny Depp in court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Ms Heard said this suggestion was “absolutely disgusting”, and said one of the couple’s dogs, Pistol and Boo, may have been responsible.

There was also evidence about the alleged “stairs incident” in Los Angeles in March 2015, during which Ms Heard alleged she had believed Mr Depp was going to push her sister, Whitney Henriquez, down a flight of stairs.

Amber Heard sensationally claimed that she rushed to her sister’s aid after remembering a “rumour” that Mr Depp had pushed Kate Moss down the stairs.

She told the the court she “did strike Johnny that day in defence of my sister”, claiming: “He was about to push her down the stairs and, the moment before that happened, I remembered information I had heard (that) he pushed a former girlfriend – I believe it was Kate Moss – down the stairs.

“I had heard this rumour from two people and it was fresh in my mind.”

As well as Mr Depp and Ms Heard, the court from friends and employees – both current and former – of the couple.

Ms Paradis and Ms Ryder were due to give evidence for Mr Depp but in the end were not called to appear in the witness box.

At the outset of the trial, in a written outline of the actor’s case, Mr Depp’s barrister, David Sherbourne said the 2018 article made “defamatory allegations of the utmost seriousness” against Mr Depp.

Mr Sherborne said: “The articles amount to a full-scale attack on the claimant as a ‘wife beater’, guilty of the most horrendous physical abuse.”

“The claimant’s position is clear – Ms Heard’s allegations are complete lies,” the barrister added.

Mr Depp is suing NGN and Mr Wootton over an April 27 2018 article with the headline: “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”

His lawyers say the article bore the meaning there was “overwhelming evidence” Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard on a number of occasions and left her “in fear for her life”.

NGN is defending the article as true, and says Mr Depp was “controlling and verbally and physically abusive towards Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs”.

Mr Justice Nicol has said that his judgment will be reserved.

More in this section


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up
Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd