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February 26, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 8:58am

Johnny Depp appears at High Court in libel case against Sun over ‘domestic abuse’ article

By PA Mediapoint

Hollywood actor Johnny Depp has appeared at the High Court in London for a hearing in his libel case against The Sun.

The movie star is suing the publisher of The Sun and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an article which alleged he had been abusive to his former wife Amber Heard.

The Pirates Of The Caribbean star, wearing a suit and blue-tinted glasses, sat in court behind his lawyers at a pre-trial review hearing today.

Depp, 56, denies the allegations of domestic abuse and has accused Heard of being the “aggressor” in their relationship, which ended in May 2016.

He listened as barrister David Sherborne told the court that the case was “very unusual” in the sense that Heard’s allegations against her ex-husband have been “publicly aired on a massive scale in the media”, largely by the actress herself.

Sherborne said the trial, which is due to start on 23 March and last for ten days, will involve evidence which is “diametrically opposed”.

He told Mr Justice Nicol: “There is such a contrast between the version of events that is provided by Ms Heard and that provided by Mr Depp.

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“It is black and white. One person, one side, is lying, and one is not.

“Obviously, we say that it is Ms Heard (who is lying), Mr Depp is 100 per cent clear about that.”

The barrister told the court Heard’s allegations date back to the early stage of the couple’s relationship in 2013, before they married in 2015.

He also referred to recordings of Heard, 33, which recently came to light, in which she appears to discuss having been physically violent towards Depp.

Sherborne said that evidence “demonstrates in her own voice that she was not a victim of domestic abuse, but rather that she was the aggressor”.

He added that, in the recordings, Heard is apparently heard to say that no-one would believe Depp if he claimed to be a victim of domestic violence.

The court heard a number of witnesses will either attend the trial or appear over a video link, many from California, to give evidence in support of either Depp or Heard.

The libel claim, against News Group Newspapers and 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?”

Sherborne told the court the words “wife-beater” were later removed from the article online.

The court previously heard Depp’s case is that the article bears the meaning that he was “guilty, on overwhelming evidence, of serious domestic violence against his then wife, causing significant injury and leading to her fearing for her life, for which the claimant was constrained to pay no less than £5m to compensate her, and which resulted in him being subjected to a continuing court restraining order; and for that reason is not fit to work in the film industry”.

Depp has brought separate libel proceedings against Heard in the US, which Sherborne said are “ongoing”.

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

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

The couple settled their divorce out of court in 2017, with Heard donating her $7m (£5.5m) settlement to charity.

Both actors signed non-disclosure agreements barring them from discussing their relationship publicly.

In a joint statement, they said their relationship was “intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love”.

They added: “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain.

“There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm.”

Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

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