Johnny Depp loses libel case against The Sun over ‘wife beater’ article

Actor Johnny Depp has lost his High Court libel action against The Sun newspaper over an article which 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 he 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".

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FILE - In this Tuesday, July 28, 2020 file photo, American actor Johnny Depp, waves as he leaves after the end of the trial at the High Court in London. The UK High Court has ruled against Johnny Depp in his libel suit against the owner of the Sun newpaper over wife-beating allegation, it was reported on Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)
FILE - In this file photo dated Tuesday, July 28, 2020, US Actress Amber Heard, former wife of actor Johnny Depp, arrives at the High Court in London. Britain’s judicial office said Tuesday Oct. 27, 2020, that judge Andrew Nicol will deliver his verdict in writing on Nov. 2, ruling on whether Johnny Depp was libelled by a tabloid newspaper that accused him of assaulting his then wife Amber Heard. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, FILE)
In this court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook, actress Amber Heard being being cross-examined by Eleanor Laws QC as she gives evidence at the High Court in London, Tuesday July 21, 2020. Amber Heard took to the witness box for her second day giving evidence in Depp’s libel case against a British tabloid over allegations of domestic violence. The Hollywood star strongly denies abusing Heard. (Elizabeth Cook via PA via AP)
Photo by: KGC-158/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 7/28/20 Johnny Depp departs The Royal Courts Of Justice on the final day of his libel case. (London, England, UK)
Photo by: KGC-158/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 7/28/20 Amber Heard is seen giving a statement outside The Royal Courts Of Justice on the final day of Johnny Depp's libel case. (London, England, UK)
A brown envelope containing a bandana and a handwritten note from actor Johnny Depp, given to supporters, at the High Court, on the final day of hearings in his libel case, in London, Tuesday July 28, 2020. Depp is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper's executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a "wife-beater." The Sun's defense relies on a total of 14 allegations by ex wife Ambere Heard of Depp's violence. He strongly denies all of them. (Yui Mok/PA via AP)
Photo by: KGC-182/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 7/28/20 Amber Heard and her attorney Jennifer Robinson are seen in Soho following the conclusion of a three week libel trial against Amber's former husband Johnny Depp. (London, England, UK)
Photo by: KGC-158/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 7/28/20 Johnny Depp departs The Royal Courts Of Justice on the final day of his libel case. (London, England, UK)
Actor Johnny Depp, centre, receives flowers as he arrives at the High Court for a hearing in his libel case, in London, Friday, July 24, 2020. Depp is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper's executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a "wife-beater." The Sun's defense relies on a total of 14 allegations by his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard of Depp's violence. He strongly denies all of them. (Kirsty O'Connor/PA via AP)
Actor Johnny Depp, second right, arrives at the High Court for a hearing in his libel case, in London, Friday, July 24, 2020. Depp is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper's executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a "wife-beater." The Sun's defense relies on a total of 14 allegations by his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard of Depp's violence. He strongly denies all of them. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
Actress Amber Heard arrives at the High Court for a hearing in Johnny Depp's libel case, in London, Friday, July 24, 2020. Depp is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper's executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a "wife-beater." The Sun's defense relies on a total of 14 allegations by Heard of Depp's violence. He strongly denies all of them. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
London, UK - 22 July 2020 Johnny Depp attends libel trial against the Sun at The Royal Courts of Justice. CAP/JOR ©JOR/Capital Pictures / MediaPunch /IPX
London, UK - 22 July 2020 Amber Heard attends libel trial against the Sun at The Royal Courts of Justice. CAP/JOR ©JOR/Capital Pictures / MediaPunch /IPX
Photo by: KGC-158/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 7/21/20 Johnny Depp seen arriving at the Royal Courts of Justice for a 11th day of his Libel Trial in London.
London, UK - 20 July 2020: ***NORTH AMERICA ONLY*** Amber Heard attends libel trial against The Sun, a tabloid newspaper, at The Royal Courts of Justice. Credit: JOR/Capital Pictures /MediaPunch /IPX
Actress Amber Heard arrives at the High Court in London, Monday, July 20, 2020. Amber Heard started Monday to give evidence at the High Court in London as part of Johnny Depp’s libel case against The Sun over allegations of domestic violence during the couple's relationship. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
London, UK - 20 July 2020 ***NORTH AMERICAS ONLY*** Johnny Depp attends libel trial against the Sun tabloid newspaper at The Royal Courts of Justice in London, England. CAP/GOL ©GOL/Capital Pictures /MediaPunch /IPX
London, UK - 20 July 2020 ***NORTH AMERICAS ONLY*** Johnny Depp attends libel trial against the Sun tabloid newspaper at The Royal Courts of Justice in London, England. CAP/GOL ©GOL/Capital Pictures /MediaPunch /IPX
Actor Johnny Depp gestures as he arrives at the High Court to give evidence in his libel case, in London, Wednesday July 15, 2020. Depp is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a “wife-beater.” The Sun’s defense relies on a total of 14 allegations by Amber Heard of Depp’s violence. He strongly denies all of them. ( Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)
Actress Amber Heard gestures as she arrives at the High Court for a hearing in Johnny Depp's libel case, in London, Wednesday July 15, 2020. Depp is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a “wife-beater.” The Sun’s defense relies on a total of 14 allegations by Heard of Depp’s violence. He strongly denies all of them. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)
Actress Amber Heard, centre, arrives at the High Court for a hearing in Johnny Depp's libel case against the publishers of The Sun and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, in London, Tuesday July 14, 2020. Depp is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a “wife-beater.” The Sun’s defense relies on a total of 14 allegations by Heard of Depp’s violence. He strongly denies all of them. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
Actress Amber Heard, center, leaves the High Court in London, Monday, July 13, 2020. Johnny Depp accused Amber Heard of hitting him with a “haymaker” punch during an altercation near the end of their volatile marriage, as the star wrapped up testimony in his libel suit against a British tabloid newspaper that accused him of domestic abuse. The Hollywood star is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a “wife-beater.” (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
American actor Johnny Depp poses for the media as he arrives at the High Court in London, Monday, July 13, 2020. Depp is expected to wrap up his evidence at his libel trial against a tabloid newspaper that accused him of abusing ex-wife Amber Heard. The Hollywood star is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a “wife-beater.” (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
American actor Johnny Depp arrives at the High Court in London, Monday, July 13, 2020. Depp is expected to wrap up his evidence at his libel trial against a tabloid newspaper that accused him of abusing ex-wife Amber Heard. The Hollywood star is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a “wife-beater.” (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Actor Johnny Depp, second left, leaves the High Court in London, Monday, July 13, 2020. Depp accused Amber Heard of hitting him with a “haymaker” punch during an altercation near the end of their volatile marriage, as the star wrapped up testimony in his libel suit against a British tabloid newspaper that accused him of domestic abuse. The Hollywood star is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a “wife-beater.” (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
American actor Johnny Depp arrives at the High Court in London, Monday, July 13, 2020. Depp is expected to wrap up his evidence at his libel trial against a tabloid newspaper that accused him of abusing ex-wife Amber Heard. The Hollywood star is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a “wife-beater.” (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Johnny Depp arrives at the High Court in London, Thursday, July 9, 2020. Johnny Depp is back in the witness box for a third day at the trial of his libel suit against a tabloid newspaper that called him a “wife-beater.” Depp is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that said he’d physically abused ex-wife Amber Heard.  He strongly denies ever hitting Heard. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Actress Amber Heard arrives at the High Court in London, Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Johnny Depp is facing a second day of cross-examination by lawyers for British tabloid The Sun, which is defending a libel claim after calling the Hollywood star a "wife beater." Depp is suing The Sun's publisher, News Group Newspapers, and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that said he'd been abusive to ex-wife Amber Heard. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
Actor Johnny Depp leaves the High Court in London, Tuesday, July 7, 2020. The libel case by Depp against a British tabloid newspaper started Tuesday over a 2018 article that branded him violent and abusive to then-wife Amber Heard. Depp strongly denies the claim. (Aaron Chown/PA via AP)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 28: Amber Heard departs from the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand on July 28, 2020 in London, England. Hollywood Actor Johnny Depp is suing News Group Newspapers (NGN) and the Sun's executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an article published in 2018 that referred to him as a "wife beater" during his marriage to actor Amber Heard. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
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The judge said: "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.

"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."

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, 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.

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, 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".

Johnny Depp court case
Actress Amber Heard (Victoria Jones/PA)

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

The Pirates Of The Caribbean star 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.

NGN defended the article as true and says Mr 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 Sun 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."

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