Description of Johnny Depp as ‘wife beater’ is accurate, say newspaper lawyers

The Hollywood actor’s libel action against the publisher of The Sun is under way at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Johnny Depp arriving at the High Court
Johnny Depp arriving at the High Court

The description of Johnny Depp as a “wife beater” is “entirely accurate and truthful”, lawyers for News Group Newspapers have told a High Court judge.

A raft of evidence, including photos, audio recordings and the Hollywood star’s own text messages supports the defence that Mr Depp “beat his wife Amber Heard, causing her to suffer significant injury and on occasion leading to her fearing for her life”, they argued.

Mr Depp, 57, is suing NGN, publisher of The Sun newspaper, and its executive editor Dan Wootton over an article which called him a “wife beater”.

The article related to allegations made against Mr Depp by Ms Heard, 34, that he was violent towards her during their marriage – claims he denies.

In a written opening note at the start of the three-week trial in London – which is being heard by Mr Justice Nicol – Sasha Wass QC, barrister for NGN, said: “The defendants will demonstrate that the description of Mr Depp as a ‘wife beater’ is entirely accurate and truthful.

“They will show that the sting of the articles is correct – namely that the claimant beat his wife Amber Heard, causing her to suffer significant injury and on occasion leading to her fearing for her life.

“This defence is supported by witness testimony, medical evidence, photographs, video, audio recordings, digital evidence and Mr Depp’s own texts.”

In her note Ms Wass described Ms Heard as an “intelligent and independent woman who has developed her own career as an actress”.

She said: “Her independence and self-determination gave rise to a series of conflicts between the two, with Mr Depp seeking to control Ms Heard’s social life and career choices.

“Ms Heard was forging her own way in the acting profession and was not content to play the role of a supplicant consort.

“As a result of her having her own career, disputes between the two increasingly arose where Ms Heard’s professional life clashed with Mr Depp’s desire to dominate the relationship.

“These conflicts manifested themselves in arguments where Mr Depp became abusive and aggressively jealous, on occasion falsely accusing Ms Heard of having sexual relationships with her co-stars.

Johnny Depp arrives at the High Court
Johnny Depp arrives at the High Court (Steve Parsons/PA)

“Matters were not helped by the generational difference between Ms Heard and Mr Depp which fuelled Mr Depp’s insecurity.

“This exacerbated his well-documented dependence and excessive abuse of alcohol and controlled drugs which dated back to Mr Depp’s time as a young man.”

Ms Wass said that during the relationship, Ms Heard was “understanding and supportive” of all Mr Depp’s attempts to rehabilitate himself” and during the early period of his attempts to “kick his addiction” he was “appreciative” of her support.

But she said that on occasions, when he “failed to control his alcohol and substance abuse”, Mr Depp “turned his rage and frustration on Ms Heard, berating her and launching into a variety of vile, crude and unreasonable accusations.”

Amber Heard arrives at the High Court
Amber Heard arrives at the High Court (Aaron Chown/PA)

Ms Wass said: “On such occasions, Mr Depp’s aggression typically descended into physically destructive behaviour, including the use of violence against her. His ‘wife beating’ behaviour included throwing objects at her, slapping her across the face, kicking her, gripping her around the throat and threatening to kill her.

“In periods of sobriety following Mr Depp’s destructive rages, he recognised the problems he faced, apologised to Ms Heard and blamed what he described as ‘his illness’. He referred to his drunken and violent persona as ‘the monster’.

“When sober, Mr Depp was capable of kindness, charm and generosity. The side of character which he described as ‘the monster’ was jealous, controlling, violent and savage. It is these characteristics which qualify him for the term ‘wife beater’.”

Ms Wass argued that during his evidence, Mr Depp “will seek to present as a kind and charming individual”.

But she added: “The defendants will suggest that either Mr Depp is a pathological liar or his excessive alcohol and drug abuse have detached him from any insight into his own conduct.

“Either way, what he did to Amber Heard was to beat her.

“The description of him in the online article in The Sun newspaper is correct, true and accurate.”

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