Johnny Depp loses 'wife beater' libel case against The Sun

Watch: Johnny Depp loses libel case over ‘wife beater' claim

Actor Johnny Depp has lost his High Court libel action against The Sun newspaper over an article that labelled him a “wife beater”.

Depp, 57, sued the tabloid’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor Dan Wootton over the 2018 article, which referred to “overwhelming evidence” that the actor attacked ex-wife Amber Heard during their relationship.

In a ruling on Monday, 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”.

The judge said: “The claimant has not succeeded in his action for libel.

Johnny Depp arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice on the final day of the hearing on the libel case against The Sun newspaper on 28 July, 2020 in London, England. Today the court will hear final submissions from David Sherborne on behalf of Johnny Depp who is suing the The Sun's publisher, News Group Newspapers, over a 2018 article in which he was accused of being violent towards Amber Heard during their marriage. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Johnny Depp arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on the final day of the hearing. (WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“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.

Read more: Timeline of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s relationship

“I have reached these conclusions having examined in detail the 14 incidents on which the defendants rely as well as the overarching considerations which the claimant submitted I should take into account.”

Watch: Amber Heard gives statement outside court during trial

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.

Depp and Heard, 34, both attended the 16-day trial, which featured high drama, claims of brutal violence and sensational revelations about their tempestuous relationship.

Read more: ‘Defecation incident’ was ‘fitting end’ to relationship, Depp tells court

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

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.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 03: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard attend The UK Premiere of 'The Rum Diary' at  on November 3, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard attend the UK premiere of The Rum Diary in 2011. (Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)

As the trial drew to a close, 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, executive editor Wootton asked how Harry Potter author JK Rowling could be “genuinely happy” that Depp had been cast in the latest film in her Fantastic Beasts spin-off franchise amid the allegations by Heard.

Depp denied having been violent to 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.

Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald in <i>Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald</i> (Warner Bros.)
Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald. (Warner Bros)

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

A spokesperson for the newspaper said: “The Sun has stood up and campaigned for the victims of domestic abuse for over 20 years.

“Domestic abuse victims must never be silenced and we thank the judge for his careful consideration and thank Amber Heard for her courage in giving evidence to the court.”

Watch: Amber Heard accuses Johnny Depp of dodging deposition in $50m defamation case