A lawyer for The Sun has told the High Court it has established at trial that Johnny Depp was guilty of “many more than one incident of wife-beating”.
Sasha Wass QC, for News Group Newspapers, has made her closing submissions in the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century.
Depp, 57, is suing NGN and Sun executive editor Dan Wootton over a 2018 article labelling him a “wife beater” in relation to his ex-wife Amber Heard.
Wass told Mr Justice Nicklin: “The article complained of in this defamation action referred to Mr Depp as a ‘wife beater’. The defence is one of truth, namely that Mr Depp did indeed beat his wife.
“For the defence of truth to be substantiated, the defendants need to prove on a balance of probabilities that Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard on at least one occasion.
“During the last two weeks, the defendants have established that many more than one incident of wife-beating took place over the course of the relationship between the claimant [Depp] and Amber Heard.”
She said the evidence of Depp’s drug and alcohol-fuelled lifestyle heard throughout the trial “provides a backdrop to the events in question and that it is relevant for two reasons.
“Firstly, it demonstrates that the claimant was subject to irrational mood swings and abnormal behavioural patterns, which would not have been present when Mr Depp was clean and sober, and Mr Depp has a name for this metamorphosed entity, namely ‘The Monster’,” she said.
“The other aspect which is important in terms of substance abuse is Mr Depp’s recollection of his own disgraceful conduct, which is so severely impaired by drug misuse that he may not even have been aware of the extent of his violence and terrifying behaviour which, on more than one of these pleaded incidents, put Ms Heard in fear of her life.”
The Sun is relying on 14 allegations of domestic violence, all of which Depp denies.
Wass said: “Each and every pleaded incident is supported by the testimony of Ms Heard herself and if my lord finds her to be a truthful and plausible witness, doing her best to recount what must have been extremely traumatic events, then Ms Heard’s evidence alone is sufficient to establish the defence of truth.”
She went on: “The days are long past when the courts in this country required corroboration before accepting the unsupported testimony of a female complainant.”
Wass said it is “trite” to suggest that a person who chooses to remain with a violent partner “cannot be a victim”.
She said: “We submit… that the testimony of a complainant of domestic violence is sufficient to prove the case, provided that the complainant – Ms Heard in this case – gives credible and reliable evidence.”
However, she said that in this case, unusually, there is also a “wealth of evidence” to support Ms Heard’s account.
She said there were text messages and emails to support her evidence, as well as medical evidence from those who were treating Depp for his addictions.
Wass said: “This paints a picture of a hopeless addict who repeatedly lost his self-control and all ability to restrain his anger.”
The barrister said there was also photographic evidence of Ms Heard’s injuries, in addition to eyewitness evidence from those who say they either witnessed an assault or “saw the last stages of it”.
Wass continued that “the way the case has been put forward” by Depp’s lawyers “assumes that if it can be proved… Ms Heard had struck him on one occasion … this absolves Mr Depp from any responsibility for the many occasions when he assaulted her”.
She added: “It is as though Mr Depp is seeking to justify his physical assaults on Ms Heard on the basis that she may have deserved it from something she had done on some other occasion.”
Ms Wass said that the case was not about whether Ms Heard “fought back or even lost her temper”.
The barrister told Mr Justice Nicol: “The issue is whether Mr Depp used unlawful violence against Ms Heard,” adding that someone only has to look at a picture of the couple together to see Heard was not physically capable of winning a fight between them.
She continued: “These are libel proceedings, they are not matrimonial proceedings, although an onlooker might have been forgiven for confusing the two.”
Ms Wass told the court it was not deciding “who is at fault” during the marriage, but whether “Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard on at least one occasion”.
The court will hear closing submissions in Depp’s case against NGN on Tuesday.
Mr Justice Nicol has said that his judgment will be reserved.
Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire
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