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Judge denies Johnny Depp permission to appeal Sun libel action

Matthew Weaver and agency
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

The Hollywood actor Johnny Depp has been refused permission to appeal after losing his high stakes libel action against the Sun over its description of him as a “wife beater”.

A high court judge also ordered the actor to make an initial payment to the Sun’s publishers, New Group Newspapers (NGN), of almost £630,000 in legal fees.

Depp, 57, brought legal action over a column by the newspaper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, which referred to “overwhelming evidence” that he had attacked his ex-wife Amber Heard, 34, during their relationship.

In the initial ruling, earlier this month, Mr Justice Nicol dismissed Depp’s claim, saying NGN had proved what was in the article to be “substantially true”.

In a ruling that was made public on Wednesday, it has now emerged Nicol refused Depp permission to appeal against his judgment, saying: “I do not consider that the proposed grounds of appeal have a reasonable prospect of success.”

Nicol gave Depp until 7 December to apply directly to the court of appeal to overturn his judgment. And he ordered Depp to pay NGN’s legal fees.

In his main judgment published earlier this month, Nicol found that Depp assaulted Heard on a dozen occasions, putting her in “fear for her life” during three of them.

Dismissing Depp’s libel case, Nicol found that 12 of the 14 alleged incidents of domestic violence relied on by NGN did occur. The judge said Depp put Heard “in fear of her life” during what she described as a “three-day hostage situation” in Australia in March 2015.

He also said he accepted that a further “confidential” allegation made against Depp regarding the incident in Australia had happened. Nicol found Heard was also in fear for her life during incidents on the Eastern and Oriental Express in south east Asia in August 2015 and again in Los Angeles in December of the same year.

Nicol said: “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’ … I do not accept this characterisation of Ms Heard.”

Depp denied having been violent to Heard, and claimed the article included quotes from alleged victims of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein in order to “finish his career” by linking the allegations against him to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.

NGN defended the article as true and said Depp was “controlling and verbally and physically abusive towards Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs” between early 2013 and May 2016, when the couple split.