CASE CLOSED: Johnny Depp loses libel case against Sun newspaper

Not liable for libel.

In 2018, actor, Johnny Depp, sued the British newspaper’s publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor Dan Wootton, over an article in 2018 which described Depp as a “wife beater” and claimed there was “overwhelming evidence” he had attacked his ex-wife Amber Heard. The judge, Mr Justice Nicol, ruled that the paper’s allegations were “substantially true.”

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp legal battles have been continuous. Both parties have accused one another of abuse. Heard accused her ex-husband of verbal and physical abuse. She said Depp slapped, kicked, head-butted and choked her. During one incident, she said, Depp threw wine and liquor bottles at her “like grenades.” She claimed he was frequently inebriated and high on drugs while the couple lived together in Australia, Los Angeles and London. The Sun claims they are known to speak out regarding domestic violence and the headline in question was doing just that. Johnny Depp disagreed with the statement believing he had a case for libel.

Libel is a published false statement that can be damaging to a person’s reputation. A plaintiff has a valid claim for libel when defendant makes a false and defamatory statement concerning the plaintiff; The defendant made the defamatory statement to a third party knowing it was false (or they should have known it was false); and the publisher acted at least negligently in publishing the communication.

Here, Depp filed his libel claim based on the following headline, “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?” The outcome of this libel claim depends on the nature of the allegations and whether they are true. Since Depp loss, the court was not convinced that statement was false. Here, it appears that Heard had the better argument to prove the domestic allegations were true.

According to the Washington Post, the Sun responded to the judgment with a statement saying that the paper “has stood up and campaigned for the victims of domestic abuse for over twenty years.” It added: “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.”

It is likely that Depp will appeal the decision. Depp’s attorney made a statement, calling the decision perverse. This decision could affect  Johnny Depp’s career and reputation.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think the court made the right decision?

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