UK judge rules against Johnny Depp over ‘drugs texts’ in libel case

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Johnny Depp has breached an order in a libel case by failing to d.....continues.

Johnny Depp has breached an order in a libel case by failing to disclose texts that apparently show him trying to obtain drugs, the high court has ruled.

The decision by Mr Justice Nicol comes shortly before the scheduled trial of the Hollywood actor’s defamation claim against News Group Newspapers (NGN) and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article in the Sun that referred to Depp as a “wife beater”.

The article related to allegations made against Depp by his ex-wife Amber Heard that he was violent towards her during their marriage – claims he strenuously denies.

Last Thursday NGN’s legal team asked Nicol to strike out Depp’s claim on the grounds that he had not given them what were referred to as the “Australia drugs texts”.

It was said that these involved exchanges between Depp and his assistant, Nathan Holmes. The messages were sent in early 2015, shortly before an alleged incident in Australia between Depp and Heard that she claims was “a three-day ordeal of physical assaults”.

Adam Wolanski QC, representing NGN, said the texts demonstrated that the Pirates of the Caribbean star was trying to get drugs during the visit to Australia. The court was told that references to “happy pills” and “whitey stuff” showed Depp was trying to obtain MDMA and cocaine, which Wolanski argued was “profoundly damaging to his case”.

Wolanski asked the court to strike out the claim on the grounds of Depp’s failure to comply with the judge’s disclosure order.

Delivering judgment on Monday morning, Nicol said he agreed with the defendants’ claim that Depp had “failed to comply fully with [his] obligation” to disclose documents. However, he declined to strike out the case immediately and he is hearing further applications in the case.

The judgment contained some of Depp’s alleged texts from 2015. On one occasion, he is said to have sent a message to Holmes declaring: “We should have more happy pills!!!?? Can you???”

Holmes, according to the judgment, replied: “Yes we can !! I’m giving them to Stephen to give you. Yay xx”

In a subsequent text, Depp was reported to have sent Holmes the message: “Need more whitey stuff ASAP brotherman ... and the e-business!!! Please I’m in a bad bad shape. Say NOTHING to NOBODY!!!!”

Depp was among those listed as watching the online proceedings remotely on Monday.

David Sherborne, the barrister representing Depp, told the court during the remote hearing that the impact on the case of the missing material would have been very limited. It was vital, he added, that the hearing should take place next week so that his client could vindicate his reputation. “To punish [Depp] by taking the draconian step of striking out [the case] would be utterly disproportionate,” he said. “This was no deliberate breach.”

The defendants, he said, were “deliberately conducting these proceedings by airing the allegations in open court at interim hearings in a way which we have said was gratuitous and deliberately intended to inflame the publicity surrounding them to damage the claimant and to put him in the worst possible light.”

But Wolanski said Depp had “misled” the court over an important matter. The texts, he added, “demonstrated that he is not telling the truth in relation to these events in Australia”.

The disclosure exercise carried out by representatives for Depp “was conducted at the very least totally incompetently and quite possibly with a view to the deliberate withholding of damaging documents”. NGN would not consequently be able to have a fair trial, he added. “If this case goes ahead it will absorb vast resources: five courtrooms have been made available, all of this largely at public expense.”

The hearing continues.

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