Johnny Depp Loses Libel Case Over British Tabloid That Accused Him of Abusing Amber Heard
By Desiree Murphy
WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Johnny Depp has lost his libel case against U.K. tabloid The Sun and executive editor Dan Wootton.
After three weeks of court hearings and months of waiting, a judge ruled in a London court on Monday that the tabloid was justified in its use of the phrase "wife beater" in a 2018 article about his relationship with ex-wife, Amber Heard.
“The Claimant has not succeeded in his action for libel. Although he has proved the necessary elements of his cause of action in libel, the Defendants have shown that what they published in the meaning which I have held the words to bear was substantially true,” the judge decreed in an online ruling (via Deadline).
Following Monday's ruling, Heard's attorney issued a statement.
“For those of us present for the London High Court trial, this decision and judgment are not a surprise," Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, U.S. counsel for Heard, told ET in a statement. “Very soon, we will be presenting even more voluminous evidence in the U.S. We are committed to obtaining justice for Amber Heard in the U.S. Court and defending Ms. Heard's Right to Free Speech.”
Depp sued News Group Newspapers (publisher of The Sun) and Wootton for a 2018 article on their website that described him as a "wife beater" and claimed he abused Heard. The 57-year-old actor has vehemently denied he was ever violent toward Heard, 34, whom he was married to from 2015 to 2017.
In closing arguments for the trial on July 28, Depp's lawyer, David Sherborne, said his client strongly denied "this reputation-destroying, career-ending" allegation.
"He has never hit a woman in his entire life. Period, full stop, nada," Sherborne said, reiterating how damaging the allegation has been to Depp's career. "Acting as both judge and jury, the defendants plainly and squarely state that Mr. Depp is guilty [of a] series of serious and violent criminal offenses."
Sasha Wass, lawyer for News Group Newspapers, argued in her closing statement that Depp "regularly and systematically abused his wife" and therefore the "wife beater" description The Sun used was accurate.
Heard also made a statement outside of London's High Court on the last day of the libel case in July, saying, "I traveled here to the U.K. to testify as a witness to assist the court."
"After obtaining a restraining order in 2016 and finalizing my divorce, I just wanted to move on with my life," she explained. "I did not file this lawsuit. And despite its significance, I would have preferred not to be here in court."
"It has been incredibly painful to relive the breakup of my relationship, to have my motives, my truth, questioned," she continued. "And the most traumatic, intimate details of my life with Johnny shared in court and broadcast to the entire world. I stand by my testimony. And I now place my faith in British justice."
ET has reached out to Depp's reps for further comment on the verdict.