Johnny Depp's libel case over wife-beater' claim could be struck off

Johnny Depp’s libel case over claims he beat up Amber Heard could be thrown out after actor’s lawyers breached court order by not disclosing ‘happy pills’ and ‘whitey stuff’ texts that ‘showed him trying to get drugs’

  • Actor was told to hand over the messages ahead of his libel trial 
  • He is suing The Sun newspaper, publisher NGN and exec editor Dan Wootton
  • Action centres around a story which had headline calling him a ‘wife-beater’ 
  • Depp strenuously denies mistreating his ex Amber Heard, also a Hollywood star 

Johnny Depp’s libel trial could be thrown out of court after he was accused of ‘breathtaking arrogance’ by breaching a court order to release texts about ‘happy pills’ and ‘whitey stuff’. 

The Pirates of the Caribbean star, 57, had been told to disclose the messages which apparently show him trying to obtain drugs, but his lawyers did not hand them over.

Today High Court judge Mr Justice Nichol ruled he breached the ‘unless order’ requiring him to show the documents from separate libel proceedings against his ex-wife Amber Heard, 34.

Actor Johnny Depp, 57, at the High Court at an earlier hearing surrounded by security

Mr Justice Nichol said: ‘The Australian drug texts were adverse to the claimant’s pleaded case and/or were supportive of the defendants’ pleaded case.’

Depp is currently suing The Sun, its publisher News Group Newspapers and its executive editor Dan Wootton over an April 2018 article which referred to him as a ‘wife beater’.

It relayed claims against him by Amber that he was violent towards her during their marriage – something he strenuously denies.

On Thursday Adam Wolanski QC, who is acting for NGN, said the judge should strike out the claim.

He said the ‘happy pills’ and ‘whitey stuff’ showed Mr Depp was trying to obtain MDMA and cocaine, which he argued was ‘profoundly damaging to his case’.

The silk said: ‘He has demonstrated contempt for our courts and for your lordship.’

Amber Heard, Depp’s ex-wife, is part of the case against The Sun newspaper after it published a headline claiming he was a ‘wife-beater’

Mr Wolanski said the absence of any ‘contrition’ from Mr Depp, or an apology for the breach of the court order, shows a ‘breathtaking arrogance’.

Depp’s barrister, David Sherborne, said the messages were not relevant as they did not relate to the allegations of domestic violence and said the case should not be struck out.

He said: ‘The issue in this case is whether the defendants can prove that the claimant committed serious domestic violence and put Ms Heard in fear.

‘It is not about whether Mr Depp asks for drugs.’

The libel claim against NGN and Mr Wootton arises out of publication of an article in The Sun in April 2018, under the headline: ‘Gone Potty – How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?’

Mr Wolanski said Depp subjected Ms Heard to a ‘three-day hostage-taking situation’ in Australia while he was taking MDMA, also known as ecstasy, and drinking heavily.

Depp, 57, in one of his most famous roles in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series

The barrister said Ms Heard alleges she was subjected to assaults after she challenged Mr Depp for taking a number of pills and washing them down with red wine.

Mr Depp ‘expressly denies’ that he took the drugs, that Ms Heard found a bag of pills or that the pair had any conversations about drug use during that time, and claims Ms Heard went into ‘a prolonged and extreme rage’ after a discussion of a post-nuptial agreement.

The pair met on the set of 2011 comedy The Rum Diary and married in Los Angeles in February 2015.

In May 2016, Ms Heard obtained a restraining order against Mr Depp after accusing him of abuse, which he denied.

The couple settled their divorce out of court in 2017, with Ms Heard donating her seven million US dollars (£5.5 million) settlement to charity.

A three-week trial at the Royal Courts of Justice in London – which was due to start in March, but was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic – is listed to begin on July 7, with Mr Depp’s former partners Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder among the witnesses expected to give evidence.

The court has heard that Mr Depp intends to travel from his home in France to London to give evidence, while Ms Heard is believed to have already travelled to the UK from California.

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