Justice Andrew Nichol ruled in favor of The Sun and their parent company News Group Newspapers Ltd. after Johnny Depp filed a libel lawsuit against the company and its Executive Editor Dan Wootton.
Depp filed the lawsuit in response to an article published by The Sun in April 2018 whose headline read, “‘GONE POTTY How Can J K Rowling be “genuinely happy” casting wife beater
Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”
In a 129-page decision, Justice Nichol “found that the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms Heard by Mr Depp have been proved to the civil standard (bearing in mind what has been said about the evidence necessary to satisfy that standard when serious allegations are in issue).”
However, in a section discussing Mr Depp’s record or non-record for violence, Nichol wrote, “There is no evidence that Mr Depp has any convictions for violence in the UK, in the USA or in any other jurisdiction.”
He added, “In the course of his evidence he was questioned about a number of episodes when he was said to have been violent, either to property or to people. I shall refer to these briefly, but I can say that I did not find any of them to be of any great assistance in my task.”
Also of interest is that while describing an alleged violent attack by Johnny Depp against Amber Heard over one of Depp’s tattoos, Nichol accepted the description of Johnny Depp as a “monster.”
He explained, “I have already said that I accept that Mr Depp did refer to ‘the monster’. That expression was not a figment of Ms Heard’s imagination. I accept her evidence that Mr Depp used the term to refer to that part of his personality when, affected by drink and/or drugs he would do things which he would not otherwise do and of which he might have no recollection afterwards.”
Nichol would conclude his opinion on this incident writing, “Seen in isolation, the evidence that Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard on this occasion might not be sufficient. However, taken with the evidence as a whole, I find that it did occur.”
Nichol would go on to claim that he did not believe Depp’s characterization of Amber Heard as a gold digger. Nichol specifically pointed to Heard allegedly donating $7 million that she received from her divorce settlement.
He wrote, “She was, according to this scenario, nothing more than a gold-digger. I have in the course of this judgment given reasons why I do not accept this characterisation of Ms Heard. Looking at the evidence as a whole, I come to the same conclusion.”
He would later write, “I recognise that there were other elements to the divorce settlement as well, but her donation of the $7 million to charity is hardly the act one would expect of a gold-digger.”
Nichol went on to claim that he accepted “that Ms Heard’s allegations had a negative effect on her career as an actor and activist.”
He cited Heard’s witness testimony in March where she said she has “been subjected to a campaign of targeted online abuse on social media as well as online petitions calling for me to be removed from any future sequel to Aquaman and from my association with L’Oreal. This has not been limited to my professional and commercial projects. It has also been aimed at what is most important to me: my huminitarian work, including my partnership with the United Nations (UN) and other non-governmental organisations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and many others, and the important work these organisations do.”
Nichol wrote, “This part of Ms Heard’s evidence was not challenged either. I accept it.”
Nichol would then conclude, “I accept that the Defendants have shown that the words they published were substantially true in the meanings I have held them to bear.”
In the “Conclusion and summary” section of the 129-page decision Nichol concluded, “that this claim is dismissed.”
Nichol wrote, “[Johnny Depp] 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.”
The Justice continued, “I have reached these conclusions having examined in detail the 14 incidents on which the Defendants rely as well as the overarching considerations which [Johnny Depp] submitted I should take into account.”
“In those circumstances, Parliament has said that a defendant has a complete defense. It has not been necessary to consider the fairness of the article or the defendants’ ‘malice’ because those are immaterial to the statutory defence of truth,” he concluded.
One of Johnny Depp’s lawyers, Jenny Afia of Schillings International LLP responded to Nichol’s ruling, “This decision is as perverse as it is bewildering.”
Afia added, “Most troubling is the judge’s reliance on the testimony of Amber Heard, and corresponding disregard of the mountain of counter-evidence from police officers, medical practitioners, her own former assistant, other unchallenged witnesses and an array of documentary evidence which completely undermined the allegations, point by point.”
One of Amber Heard’s lawyers, Elaine Charlson Bredehoft of Charlson Bredehoft Cohen & Brown PC stated, “For those of us present for the London High Court trial, this decision and judgment are not a surprise.”
Bredehoft added, “Very soon, we will be presenting even more voluminous evidence in the U.S. We are committed to obtaining justice for Amber Heard in the U.S. court and defending Ms. Heard’s right to free speech.”
A spokesperson for The Sun stated that victims of domestic abuse, “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.”
While Depp and his lawyers might have lost their libel lawsuit in the UK, Depp still has a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard over her writing of an op-ed for The Washington Post titled, ““Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
That lawsuit claims Heard “purported to write from the perspective of a ‘public figure representing domestic abuse’ and claimed that she ‘felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak’ when she ‘spoke up against sexual violence.”
The lawsuit adds, “The op-ed depended on the central premise that Ms. Heard was a domestic abuse victim and that Mr. Depp perpetrated domestic violence against her.”
The lawsuit goes on to deny the allegations that Johnny Depp abused Amber Heard, “Mr. Depp never abused Ms. Heard. Her allegations against him were false when they were made in 2016. They were part of an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Ms. Heard and advance her career.”
They describe the op-ed’s characterization of Johnny Depp as “categorically and demonstrably false.” The lawsuit also states Heard’s allegations were repudiated by law enforcement, eye witnesses, and surveillance camera footage.
What do you make of Depp’s lawyers’ response to Justice Nichol’s rulings?