The Hollywood actor Johnny Depp has lost his high-stakes libel action in the London courts against the Sun after the newspaper described him as a “wife beater”.
The court refused to award the Pirates of the Caribbean star compensation for damage to his reputation at the end of one of the most widely followed libel trials of the century.
In his ruling, the judge, Mr Justice Nicol, said: “The claimant [Depp] has not succeeded in his action for libel … The defendants [the Sun and News Group Newspapers] 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. In those circumstances, parliament has said that a defendant has a complete defence.”
The long-awaited decision was published online at 10am on Monday more than three months after the high court hearing finished in late July.
Depp, 57, had sued the Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an article published in the Sun that originally carried the headline “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”
News Group Newspapers relied on a defence of truth to the claim. The burden of proof was on the Sun to demonstrate that the story was substantially accurate on the balance of probabilities.
Immediately after the ruling, NGN issued a statement saying: “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.”
The US lawyer representing Heard in her forthcoming defamation case on similar grounds in the US, Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, said: “For those of us present for the London high court trial, this decision and judgment are not a surprise.
“Very soon, we will be presenting even more voluminous evidence in the US. We are committed to obtaining justice for Amber Heard in the US court and defending Ms Heard’s right to free speech.”