Johnny Depp v The Sun: All the reaction to the ruling | Ents & Arts News
It was the blockbuster libel trial of the 21st century – Johnny Depp versus The Sun.
Now, after three weeks in court and three months waiting for a judgment, Depp has lost his High Court action.
At the end of a case filled with details of drug-taking, celebrity indulgence and his volatile relationship with Amber Heard, here are the key players’ reactions to the ruling.
Johnny Depp had sued News Group Newspapers (NGN, publishers of The Sun) over a column titled “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?” in April 2018, written by executive editor Dan Wootton.
Mr Justice Nicol dismissed the Hollywood star’s claim, saying NGN had proved what was in the article to be “substantially true”.
The judge said: “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.
“I have reached these conclusions having examined in detail the 14 incidents on which the defendants rely, as well as the over-arching considerations which the claimant submitted, I should take into account.”
He went on: “I have found that the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms Heard by Mr Depp have been proved to the civil standard.”
He said that “a recurring theme in Mr Depp’s evidence was that Ms Heard had constructed a hoax and that she had done this as an ‘insurance policy’,” and that Ms Heard was a “gold-digger”.
But he added: “I do not accept this characterisation of Ms Heard.”
Mr Justice Nicol also said he accepted Heard’s evidence that the allegations she made against Depp “have had a negative effect on her career as an actor and activist”.
A spokesperson for The Sun said: “The Sun has stood up and campaigned for the victims of domestic abuse for over 20 years.
“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.”
Amber Heard’s US lawyer Elaine Charlson Bredehoft said the ruling was “not a surprise” and referred to Depp’s upcoming $50m (£39m) US defamation claim against Heard.
She said: “For those of us present for the London High Court trial, this decision and judgment are not a surprise.
“Very soon, we will be presenting even more voluminous evidence in the US.
“We are committed to obtaining justice for Amber Heard in the US court and defending Ms Heard’s right to free speech.”
The entirely separate US case concerns an opinion piece the actress wrote for the Washington Post – although it did not mention Depp by name.
Ms Bredehoft said Heard’s legal team will be presenting more evidence in the case, which is due to go before another judge in Virginia next May.
Helena Shipman of Carter Ruck solicitors told Sky News she thinks the High Court outcome was a “dry run” for Depp’s US case will have a knock-on effect on the trial.
Ms Shipman said: “Undoubtedly this will have some bearing on the case. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a settlement in the near future.”
As for the likelihood of Depp launching a successful appeal against the ruling, she says she thinks the Court Of Appeal is likely to be “very reluctant” to interfere with Judge Nicol’s findings, but that it is possible.
Speaking about the effect of the outcome on Heard, Ms Shipman said: “It’s been an ordeal for her, she may consider whether the emotional costs have been worth it for her, and could dissuade others from coming forward.
J K Rowling
A spokesperson for J K Rowling has said the author will be making “no comment” on whether Depp will still be involved in the next Fantastic Beasts film.
The third in the franchise, the movie in which Depp plays evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald is currently filming in London.
The studio behind the film, Warner Brothers, is yet to comment.
The PR man
PR guru Mark Borkowski has called Depp’s court fight: “One of the biggest showbiz fails for a long time”.
However, with showbiz being a notoriously unpredictable industry, he added: “Nothing is impossible, write no obituaries for his career”.
He told the PA news agency: “His brand had a sort of edge and that edge now has turned into something that is really ugly and abusive.”
Away from his acting career, Depp has lucrative deals with brands including Dior. It’s likely that those sponsorship deals now hang in the balance.
Depp is yet to comment on the ruling. It is not yet known if he will be appealing the decision.
Sky News has contacted his team for comment.