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Johnny Depp Denied Right To Appeal 'Wife Beater' Case Ruling

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Johnny Depp Denied Right To Appeal 'Wife Beater' Case Ruling

Johnny Depp has been denied permission to appeal the decision of the High Court concerning an article in The Sun which called Depp a 'wife beater', after the court found the piece was not libellous and its claims Depp assaulted his ex-wife Amber Heard were 'substantially true'.

Lord Justice Underhill of the Court of Appeal wrote in his judgement: "We would accordingly dismiss both Mr Depp's application for permission to adduce further evidence and his application for permission to appeal.

"As we have said, it is not easy to persuade this Court to overturn the findings of a trial judge on purely factual questions. We do not believe that there is a real prospect of it being prepared to do so in this case.

"The hearing before [High Court judge] Nicol J was full and fair, and he gave thorough reasons for his conclusions which have not been shown even arguably to be vitiated by any error of approach or mistake of law."

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Depp had requested the right to appeal against the ruling from last November in which the High Court ruled in favour of News Group Newspapers (NGN).

The 57-year-old Pirates of the Caribbean star was referred to as a 'wife beater' in a column written by The Sun editor Dan Wootton.

Upon losing that case, he was ordered to pay £628,000 ($859,000) in legal costs.

The right to appeal was originally refused by Mr Justice Nicol, but he did say Depp could appeal to the Court of Appeal, which he proceeded to do.

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Jeffrey Smele, partner at media law specialists Simons Muirhead Burton who acted for The Sun and Dan Wootton: "Today's decision fully vindicates The Sun's journalism, and also Amber Heard who stood up to Mr Depp in the face of his repeated attempts to silence her.

"It's a victory for the freedom of the press and for victims of domestic violence everywhere.

"In a case widely labelled as the 'libel trial of the century', the court heard evidence from over 30 witnesses and reviewed more than a dozen files of evidence. The Court of Appeal has now turned down any form of additional appeal. For our clients this will thankfully, finally, bring this matter to a close.

"Mr. Depp's claim of new and important evidence was nothing more than a press strategy, and has been soundly rejected by the Court."

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Following the ruling, Depp was also asked to step down from his role in the Fantastic Beasts franchise.

Amber Heard outside the High Court last year. Credit: PA
Amber Heard outside the High Court last year. Credit: PA

He brought his case to the Royal Courts of Justice in London after the judges ruled last year that the claim made by NGN was 'substantially true'.

Nicol ruled that Depp had assaulted Ms Heard on 12 of the original 14 incidents of domestic violence that formed the defence case of NGN against Depp's libel suit.

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The case was decided on the balance of probability, a lower standard than required in criminal cases.

Following the initial ruling, Depp argued he had not received 'a fair trial' and additional documents submitted by Depp's barrister David Sherborne argued that the court should 'set aside the judgement and order a new trial', calling Nicol's ruling 'plainly wrong'.

New evidence brought to the court last week by Depp's team alleged Heard had been deceptive in claiming she gave away all of the money she received from the divorce settlement to charity.

Andrew Caldecott QC, speaking on behalf of Depp, argued that while she had given much of it to charities including domestic violence organisations, she had not given away the whole amount.

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That, the court heard, could have been 'a false plus to her' - as she would appear a virtuous person and a victim - and 'a false minus to him'.

Depp and Heard before their divorce in 2016. Credit: PA
Depp and Heard before their divorce in 2016. Credit: PA

"It tips the scales against Mr Depp from the very beginning," he argued.

NGN had argued that the documents that would have made the donations issue clear were available ahead of the trial last year, and therefore do not constitute significant new evidence, or enough for an appeal.

Depp's case also relied on evidence given by Heard suggesting she was not the aggressor during any of the incidents details, and that the judge accepted this view during the original trial.

They presented several recordings, including one from a consensual therapy meeting between the pair in which Heard said: "I can't promise you that I won't get physical again... I'll do everything possible to change."

Caldecott added: "The alleged victim admits to assaulting the alleged perpetrator on more than one occasion and says that she can't promise that she won t get physical again, but when it is her case that she has never been violent, such evidence requires the most careful examination by the judge.

"The promise about future conduct suggest that this is not a one off problem."

The pair divorced after around a year of marriage. Credit: PA
The pair divorced after around a year of marriage. Credit: PA

They argued the judge was wrong to downgrade the significance of contemporary documents such as the recording in favour of evidence given in court.

It was also argued that the judge 'didn't conduct the judicial fact-finding exercise correctly' and Caldecott concluded by saying that Mr Depp is only asking for a retrial with the new evidence submitted.

NGN submitted documents ahead of the hearing asking the court to dismiss Depp's request for appeal, arguing it was 'solely against the judge's findings of fact'.

The added that Depp does not contend that the trial was conducted unfairly, and that the respondents had 'proved their articles were substantially true'.

They said the case put forward by Depp's representatives was 'unarguable' and that some claims were 'obviously wrong' and the fact that the judge 'did not find that the Respondents had satisfied him, on the balance of probabilities, that one incident had occurred as pleaded did not mean that he was compelled to reject the entirety of the Respondents' case'.

In court, Sasha Wass QC - on behalf of NGN - said that 'this [case] wasn't simply one woman giving all evidence with no support whatsoever.'

Wass said the judge 'did apply the burden and standard of proof quite properly'.

She added: "This [the initial judgement] is a perfectly rational decision and it was analysed accordingly, there is no reason to accede to the description that it lacked analysis on credibility or events."

The court ruled in favour of NGN on November 16 2020. Credit: PA
The court ruled in favour of NGN on November 16 2020. Credit: PA

Adam Wolanski QC, also arguing for News Group Newspapers, said: "The whole theory [surrounding the charitable donations] is nonsensical, the evidence went to no issue in the case, it solely went to credit."

He added: "This material would have made no difference at all to the credit of Ms Heard."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: UK News, TV and Film, Celebrity, US Entertainment

Tom Wood
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