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High Court to rule on latest stage of Johnny Depp’s libel claim against The Sun

The actor is suing over an article that referred to him as a ‘wife-beater’.

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Johnny Depp (Ian West/PA)

Johnny Depp (Ian West/PA)

Johnny Depp (Ian West/PA)

The High Court is to rule on the latest stage of Johnny Depp’s libel claim against The Sun newspaper over allegations he was violent to ex-wife Amber Heard.

The Pirates Of The Caribbean star is suing the tabloid’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that referred to the 56-year-old as a “wife-beater”.

At a High Court hearing last week, lawyers for Mr Depp said his ex-partner Vanessa Paradis has given a witness statement in which she described the actor as a “kind, attentive, generous and non-violent person and father”.

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Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, who said he was never violent towards her (Ian West/PA)

Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, who said he was never violent towards her (Ian West/PA)

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Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, who said he was never violent towards her (Ian West/PA)

Lawyers for Mr Depp sought to admit evidence from Ms Paradis, who has two children with the star, and actress Winona Ryder, with whom he had a relationship in the 1990s, as part of his case against the publisher – which was not opposed by NGN’s legal team.

David Sherborne, representing Mr Depp, said in court documents that his relationship with Ms Paradis ended in 2012, shortly before he and Ms Heard were together “and when he is first alleged to have been violent”.

In her statement, Ms Paradis said: “I have known Johnny for more than 25 years.

“We’ve been partners for 14 years and we raised our two children together.

“Through all these years I’ve known Johnny to be a kind, attentive, generous, and non-violent person and father.”

She added: “He was never violent or abusive to me.”

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Winona Ryder said Johnny Depp was ‘never violent, never abusive’ towards her (Yui Mok/PA)

Winona Ryder said Johnny Depp was ‘never violent, never abusive’ towards her (Yui Mok/PA)

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Winona Ryder said Johnny Depp was ‘never violent, never abusive’ towards her (Yui Mok/PA)

In her statement, Ms Ryder said: “I cannot wrap my head around (Ms Heard’s) accusations.

“He was never, never violent towards me. He was never, never abusive at all towards me.”

Mr Depp’s lawyers also wish to call evidence from Kate James, a former personal assistant to Ms Heard, and David Killackey, a mechanic who worked for the couple before their acrimonious divorce – which NGN’s lawyers described as “irrelevant” and “tainted”.

Mr Justice Nicol is due to give a ruling at 10am on Monday to determine whether the evidence of Ms James and Mr Killackey can form part of his case against NGN – which is set for a trial in July.

Mr Sherborne said Mr Killackey’s witness statement referred to an incident after Ms Heard “asked for her car to be released without payment”, which Mr Killackey refused.

Mr Killackey quotes Ms Heard as saying “Johnny isn’t paying my rent, he isn’t paying my bills, f*** him, f*** you”, Mr Sherborne said.

The barrister added: “These are not the actions of someone who is being controlled and intimidated by some terribly aggressive man.

“This is someone who is more than capable of – and did – abuse Mr Depp.”

Mr Sherborne said Ms James, who worked for Ms Heard during the early years of her relationship with Mr Depp, claims Ms Heard asked her to lie about “the Australia dogs episode”.

In 2014, Ms Heard and Mr Depp recorded a now infamous video apologising for bringing their Yorkshire terriers Pistol and Boo into Australia illegally.

Ms Heard pleaded guilty to falsifying an immigration document to conceal the dogs in a private jet in 2014 and avoided jail under a deal that included appearing in the video warning others against breaking Australia’s strict quarantine laws.

Sasha Wass QC, representing NGN and Mr Wootton, argued during last week’s hearing that the evidence of Mr Killackey and Ms James was “largely tangential”, describing Ms James as a “disaffected ex-employee” who was giving “contentious and malicious evidence”.

A two-week trial was due to start in London on March 23 at which the actor, Ms Heard and a number of Hollywood figures would have had to give evidence but it was put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The trial is now set to take place at the Royal Courts of Justice over three weeks from July 7, with strict social distancing measures in place.

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Amber Heard and Johnny Depp attending the premiere of Black Mass during the 59th BFI London Film Festival in 2015 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp attending the premiere of Black Mass during the 59th BFI London Film Festival in 2015 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

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Amber Heard and Johnny Depp attending the premiere of Black Mass during the 59th BFI London Film Festival in 2015 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Sherborne said Mr Depp intends to travel from his home in France to London to give evidence, while Ms Heard will be able to travel from California but will have to observe a 14-day quarantine if current restrictions remain in place.

The libel claim against NGN and Mr 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?”

Mr Depp has brought separate libel proceedings against Ms Heard in the US, which the court has previously heard are “ongoing”.

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

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

The couple settled their divorce out of court in 2017, with Ms Heard donating her seven million US dollars (£5.5 million) settlement to charity.

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