Johnny Depp’s High Court libel case against The Sun over ‘wife beater’ article gets go-ahead

Johnny Depp’s case against The Sun and Dan Wootton will take place, despite the actor failing to disclose “drugs texts”.

Johnny Depp's High Court libel case against The Sun over 'wife beater' article gets go-ahead 1
Depp asked for messages between Heard, Elon Musk and James Franco to be disclosed, but his request was denied

Johnny Depp’s libel claim against The Sun after an article in the newspaper referred to him as a “wife beater” will go ahead next week as planned.

The Pirates Of The Caribbean star brought the case over an April 2018 article in the tabloid, which alleged he was violent towards ex-wife Amber Heard during their two year marriage.

Depp strenuously denies these allegations.

The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, are defending the claim.

Johnny Depp's High Court libel case against The Sun over 'wife beater' article gets go-ahead 2
The couple married in 2015, but divorced just two years later

Earlier this week, NGN argued that the case should be dropped after Depp, 57, breached a court order for failing to disclose “drugs texts” to lawyers.

Despite the breach, Mr Justice Nicol granted Mr Depp’s application for “relief from sanctions”, meaning that the trial is able to start next Tuesday.

The text messages, which referred to “happy pills” and “whitey stuff”, were sent between Depp and his assistant in late February and early March 2015.

The tabloid said they were relevant as this was shortly before an alleged incident in Australia between Depp and Heard, which Heard claims was “a three-day ordeal of physical assaults” at a time when she alleges Depp was both drinking heavily and taking drugs.

Depp “expressly denies” that he took the drugs, that Heard found a bag of pills, or that the pair had any conversations about drug use during that time – and claims Heard went into “a prolonged and extreme rage” after a discussion of a post-nuptial agreement.

The alleged incident in Australia is one of 14 separate allegations of domestic violence, dated between early 2013 and May 2016, that NGN relies on in its pleaded defence to Depp’s claim.

Johnny Depp's High Court libel case against The Sun over 'wife beater' article gets go-ahead 3
The couple pictured in Australia in April 2016

The High Court decision to continue with the trial is conditional on Depp not seeking sanctions against Heard for allegedly breaching a court order in separate ongoing libel proceedings in the US.

Earlier this week, Depp had requested “disclosure of all communications over a particular period in 2016” between Heard, the SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk and actor James Franco, however this was denied by the judge.

Depp claims that Heard had “extra-marital affairs” and argued that evidence of this would prove “false motive” for the alleged violence the 34-year-old actress says she suffered due to “Depp’s supposed paranoia and mistaken belief” that she was unfaithful.

The judge called the request “irrelevant”, saying: “The central issue for the defence of truth is whether Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard.”

The case is expected to last for three weeks – and both Depp and Heard will travel to London from their respective homes in France and America.

The couple 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.

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

Depp’s former partners, Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder, are also expected to give evidence. Both have previously given witness statements saying Depp was “never violent” towards them.

A separate libel case brought by Depp against Heard will take place in America next year.

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