Johnny Depp refused permission to appeal against High Court libel judgment

Johnny Depp refused permission to appeal against High Court libel judgment
Johnny Depp attended the 16-day trial (Yui Mok/PA)

Johnny Depp has been refused permission to appeal against a High Court ruling which concluded that he assaulted his ex-wife Amber Heard.

The 57-year-old sued The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), over a 2018 article which labelled him a “wife beater”.

The Hollywood star brought legal action over the column by the newspaper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, which referred to “overwhelming evidence” that the actor attacked Ms Heard, 34, during their relationship.

In a ruling earlier this month, Mr Justice Nicol dismissed the Pirates Of The Caribbean star’s claim, saying NGN had proved what was in the article to be “substantially true”.

Last week, Mr Justice Nicol refused Mr Depp permission to appeal against his judgment, saying: “I do not consider that the proposed grounds of appeal have a reasonable prospect of success.”

In that ruling, which was made public on Wednesday, Mr Justice Nicol gave Mr Depp until December 7 to apply directly to the Court of Appeal to overturn his judgment.

The judge also ordered the actor to make an initial payment to NGN of almost £630,000 for the publisher’s legal fees.

In his main judgment published earlier this month, Mr Justice Nicol found that Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard on a dozen occasions, putting her in “fear for her life” during three of them.

Dismissing Mr Depp’s libel case, Mr Justice Nicol found that 12 of the 14 alleged incidents of domestic violence relied on by NGN did occur.

The judge said Mr Depp put Ms Heard “in fear of her life” during what the actress described as a “three-day hostage situation” in Australia in March 2015.

He also said he accepted that a further “confidential” allegation made against Mr Depp regarding the incident in Australia had happened.

Mr Justice Nicol found Ms Heard was also in fear for her life during incidents on the Eastern and Oriental Express in South East Asia in August 2015 and again in LA in December of the same year.

Actress Amber Heard made a statement on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice in London on the final day of the trial (Victoria Jones/PA)

Mr Justice Nicol said “a recurring theme in Mr Depp’s evidence was that Ms Heard had constructed a hoax and that she had done this as an ‘insurance policy’”, and that Ms Heard was a “gold-digger”.

But he added: “I do not accept this characterisation of Ms Heard.”

The biggest English libel trial of the 21st century garnered worldwide attention as it unfolded over three weeks in July at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Mr Depp and Ms Heard attended the 16-day trial, which featured days of high drama, claims of brutal violence and sensational revelations about their tempestuous relationship.

The court heard evidence from both stars, along with friends and relatives of the couple, and several former and current employees.

Mr Depp spent around 20 hours in the witness box over five days, facing intense questioning about his Hollywood lifestyle, his use of drink and drugs, allegations of violence, and his friendships and associations with famous faces including Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and musician Sir Elton John.

As the trial drew to a close, Ms Heard stood outside on the steps of the High Court and said she stood by her evidence and would “place her faith in British justice”.

In an April 2018 column in The Sun, Mr Wootton asked how Harry Potter author JK Rowling could be “genuinely happy” that Mr Depp had been cast in the latest film in the Fantastic Beasts spin-off franchise amid the allegations by Ms Heard.

Mr Depp denied having been violent to Ms Heard, and claimed the article included quotes from alleged victims of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein in order to “finish his career” by linking the allegations against him to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.

NGN defended the article as true and said Mr Depp was “controlling and verbally and physically abusive towards Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs” between early 2013 and May 2016, when the couple split.

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