Johnny Depp in breach of court over ‘drugs texts’ in Sun libel battle, judge says

Roisin O'Connor

Johnny Depp breached an order in his libel case against The Sun by failing to disclose texts that allegedly show him trying to obtain drugs, a high court judge has ruled.

The decision comes ahead of the trial for the Hollywood actor’s defamation claim against News Group Newspapers (NGN) and executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article in The Sun that called Depp a “wife beater”.

The article referenced allegations made by Depp’s ex-wife, actor Amber Heard, that he was violent towards her during their marriage. Depp strenuously denies those allegations.

Lawyers for NGN and Wooton, who are defending the claim, say Depp, 57, was in “serious” breach of a court order for not supplying their team with messages between him and his assistant, Nathan Holmes.

The texts, sent shortly before an alleged violent incident between Depp and Heard in Australia, apparently refer to “happy pills” and “whitey stuff”, which Adam Wolanski QC said showed Depp was attempting to obtain MDMA and cocaine.

Wolanski said Depp subjected Heard to a “three-day hostage-taking situation” while he was taking MDMA, also known as ecstasy, and drinking heavily.

He said that Heard alleges she was the victim of assaults after she challenged Depp for taking a number of pills with red wine.

Depp “expressly denies” that he took the drugs or that the pair had any conversations about drug use during that time in Australia. He claims that Heard went into “a prolonged and extreme rage” after a discussion of a post-nuptial agreement.

Wolanski said the text messages between Depp and Holmes were “profoundly damaging to [Depp’s] case”. However, Depp’s barrister David Sherbourne insisted the texts were irrelevant because they did not relate to the allegations of domestic abuse.

Sherbourne also said Depp had been open about his history of drug abuse.

While it was found that Depp had breached the “unless order” that requires him to disclose documents from separate, ongoing libel proceedings against Heard in the US, his case has not been automatically struck out.

Depp has brought separate libel proceedings against Heard in the US, which the court has previously heard are “ongoing”.

His barrister argues that NGN’s legal representatives would have been given access to the text messages as they form part of the evidence in this separate case.

Depp’s application for “relief from sanctions” will now be considered.

Depp and Heard will travel to London from their respective homes in France and the US for the trial, which is scheduled to begin on 7 July and is expected to last for three weeks.

Depp’s former partners, Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder – who have previously given witness statements to say Depp was “never violent” towards them – are also expected to give evidence.

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