Johnny Depp Loses UK Libel Case Over Article That Called Him a 'Wife-Beater'

The Sun newspaper's 2018 article claiming that Depp had beaten ex-wife Amber Heard was "substantially true," the High Court in London ruled Monday

Amber Heard (L); Johnny Depp. Photo: Venturelli/Getty; John Phillips/Getty

Johnny Depp has lost his libel case against The Sun newspaper over their 2018 story that described him as a "wife-beater" during his marriage to Amber Heard.

On Monday, presiding judge Mr. Justice Nicol ruled that The Sun's article was "substantially true" in a written statement delivered through the UK Ministry of Justice.

"The Claimant (Depp) has not succeeded in his action for libel," Nicol added in a lengthy judgment that detailed 14 separate incidents that came to light during a roller-coaster 16-day trial at the Royal Courts of Justice in July.

A spokesperson for The Sun has since praised Heard for "her courage in giving evidence to the court" during the proceedings, which detailed numerous highly-personal details of the couple's marital life together.

Amber Heard
Amber Heard at the 2020 libel trial. Samir Hussein/WireImage

"Domestic abuse victims must never be silenced and we thank the Judge for his careful consideration," the spokesperson added through a written statement.

Heard's U.S. counsel Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, said that the court's ruling will now strengthen their determination to fight Depp's $50 million defamation lawsuit against Heard in the US, which was recently delayed to May 3, 2021, by Circuit Chief Judge Bruce White in Fairfax County, Virginia.

“For those of us present for the London High Court trial, this decision and Judgment are not a surprise," said Bredehoft in a written statement.

“Very soon, we will be presenting even more voluminous evidence in the U.S. We are committed to obtaining Justice for Amber Heard in the U.S. Court and defending Ms. Heard's Right to Free Speech.”

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in January 2016. Michael Kovac/Getty Images

In response to Monday's ruling, lawyers for The Pirates of the Caribbean star, 57, described the decision "as perverse as it is bewildering" and vowed to appeal the decision.

"Most troubling is the Judge’s reliance on the testimony of Amber Heard, and corresponding disregard of the mountain of counter-evidence from police officers, medical practitioners, her own former assistant, other unchallenged witnesses and an array of documentary evidence which completely undermined the allegations, point by point," said attorney Jenny Afia in a written statement.

“All of this was overlooked. The judgment is so flawed that it would be ridiculous for Mr Depp not to appeal this decision. In the meantime, we hope that in contrast to this case, the ongoing libel proceedings in America are equitable, with both parties providing full disclosure rather than one side strategically cherry-picking what evidence can and cannot be relied upon.”

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary (2011). Peter Mountain/AP Photo

Depp and Heard first met while making the 2011 film The Rum Diary together and married in 2015.

In May 2016, she was granted a temporary domestic violence restraining order against him, accusing him of abusing her. Depp denied the claims, and the former couple settled their divorce out of court in August 2016.

Heard donated her $7 million divorce settlement to charity - a decision which was recognized by Mr. Justice Nicol on Monday - and signed an NDA with Depp that barred either from discussing their relationship publicly.

In December 2018, Heard wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in which she described being an alleged victim of domestic violence. While she never mentioned Depp by name, the actor sued her for defamation, describing her allegations against him a “hoax.”

Mike Marsland/WireImage.

During the trial in London, Depp also made the same claims. However, Mr. Justice Nicol ruled that he did not accept them as accurate.

"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’ – presumably in the event that the marriage broke down," Mr. Justice Nicol said in his ruling.

"She was, according to this scenario, nothing more than a gold-digger. I have in the course of this judgment given reasons why I do not accept this characterisation of Ms Heard. Looking at the evidence as a whole, I come to the same conclusion."

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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