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Hollywood star Johnny Depp loses ‘wife beater’ libel case

Hollywood star Johnny Depp on Monday lost his libel battle with a British tabloid which labelled him a “wife beater” after a High Court judge ruled that the paper’s allegations were “substantially true”.

Depp, 57, famed for his role in films such as “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Edward Scissorhands”, had sued News Group Newspapers, publishers of the Sun, and one of its journalists, Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article which stated he had been violent towards his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, 34.

The newspaper also questioned his casting in the “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” movie franchise.

Over the course of three weeks at London’s Old Bailey in July, judge Andrew Nicol heard evidence from both Depp and Heard about their tempestuous marriage, alleged affairs, his hedonistic lifestyle and battle with drink and drugs, and their furious rows. Both accused the other of violent outbursts.

“I accept that the defendants have shown that the words they published were substantially true in the meanings I have held them to bear,” Nicol said in his ruling which could have a major impact on Depp’s reputation and future career.

“It follows that this claim is dismissed.” Heard said Depp would turn into a jealous alter ego, “the monster”, after bingeing on drugs and alcohol. He had often threatened to kill her, she said. Heard detailed 14 occasions of extreme violence when she said the actor choked, punched, slapped, head-butted, throttled and kicked her.

Depp had told the court he was never violent towards his ex-wife, saying her claims were a hoax and that he had lost the tip of a finger after she threw a vodka bottle at him during one particularly ferocious row in Australia.

Nicol rejected Depp’s characterisation of Heard as a gold-digger and his allegation that her claims were a hoax.

“For those of us present for the London High Court trial, this decision and judgment are not a surprise,” Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, Heard’s U.S. lawyer said in a statement.

Depp has also filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Heard in a Virginia court over an opinion piece she wrote in The Washington Post.

“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 Sun said in a statement.