Johnny Depp‘s bid to overturn a damning High Court ruling that he assaulted his ex-wife Amber Heard and put her in fear for her life has been dealt an initial setback after he was refused permission to appeal.
The Hollywood star sued The Sun’s publisher for libel after a 2018 column by its executive editor Dan Wootton labelled him a ‘wife beater’.
The 57-year-old took legal action against News Group Newspapers (NGN) over the column, which referred to ‘overwhelming evidence’ he attacked Ms Heard, 34, during their relationship.
Hollywood star Johnny Depp, pictured, has failed in an attempt to to appeal his recent High Court defeat over allegations that he had assaulted his ex-wife Amber Heard
The High Court in London was told that Amber Heard, pictured right, was in fear of her life. Earlier this month, Mr Justice Nichol found a story that claimed Depp had assaulted his ex-wife was ‘substantially true’
The High Court libel case heard a string of claims about the nature of Depp’s relationship with his ex-wife Amber Heard, left
Earlier this month, Mr Justice Nicol dismissed the Pirates Of The Caribbean actor’s claim, finding NGN had proved what was in the article was ‘substantially true’.
The same judge refused Mr Depp permission to appeal last week, ruling: ‘I do not consider that the proposed grounds of appeal have a reasonable prospect of success.’
The judge also ordered the actor to make an initial payment to NGN of almost £630,000 for the publisher’s legal fees.
Mr Justice Nicol said in his ruling: ‘In substance, the claimant disagrees with my findings of fact, but for the reasons summarised by (NGN’s barrister Adam Wolanksi QC) the findings of fact by a first instance tribunal – particularly one, such as myself, who has heard oral evidence – are rarely open to challenge on appeal.
‘In any event, I do not consider that the proposed grounds of appeal have a reasonable prospect of success – and that is also the case so far as the grounds of appeal suggest that I erred in principle or in law – and there is not some other compelling reason why permission to appeal should be granted.’
In the ruling, which was made public on Wednesday, Mr Justice Nicol gave Mr Depp until December 7 to apply directly to the Court of Appeal to overturn his judgment.
In his main judgment, published earlier this month, Mr Justice Nicol concluded that 12 of the 14 alleged incidents of domestic violence relied on by NGN did occur.
The judge found that Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard on a dozen occasions and put her in ‘fear for her life’ on three occasions, including one the actress described as a ‘three-day hostage situation’ in Australia in March 2015.
Mr Justice Nicol found Ms 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 LA in December of the same year.
The judge found that Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard on a dozen occasions and put her in ‘fear for her life’ on three occasions, including one the actress described as a ‘three-day hostage situation’ in Australia in March 2015
Depp, pictured, has been told he has until December 7 to apply directly to the Court of Appeal to overturn the High Court’s ruling
His solicitor Jenny Afia, from the Schillings law firm, had said the High Court ruling was ‘as perverse as it is bewildering’, adding: ‘The judgment is so flawed that it would be ridiculous for Mr Depp not to appeal this decision’
The judge 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’.
THE 14 TIMES AMBER HEARD SAID JOHNNY DEPP ATTACKED HER
1. Early 2013
Heard says Depp was completely sober until early 2013, and around that time he allegedly hit her for the first time when they were in Los Angeles.
He slapped across the face when she made a comment about his ‘Winona Forever’ tattoo, which he changed to ‘Wino Forever’ when they split up.
She claims Depp later cried and apologised, telling her that he sometimes turns into ‘the monster’ when he snaps.
The judge said: ‘Seen in isolation, the evidence that Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard on this occasion might not be sufficient. However, taken with the evidence as a whole, I find that it did occur.’
2. March 8, 2013
Heard claims Depp was angry she had hung up a painting by her ex-partner Tasya Van Ree by her bed in her LA home, then tried to set the painting on fire and hit her ‘so hard that blood from her lip ended up on the wall’.
The judge said: ‘Overall, I conclude that Mr Depp did assault Ms Heard as she and the Defendants have alleged in Incident 2.’
3. June 2013
Heard and Depp were in Hicksville, US with a group of people including Heard’s sister Whitney and Depp’s assistant Nathan Holmes.
Heard says Depp, who was ‘taking drugs’, became ‘enraged’ and ‘jealous’ when one of her friends touched her, and he then threw glasses at her, ripped her dress and damaged the cabin they were staying in.
The judge said: ‘The argument and the damage to property are symptomatic of Mr Depp’s manner when ‘the monster’ side of his personality was dominant. v) I also accept the evidence of Ms Heard that another aspect of ‘the monster’ was that Mr Depp physically assaulted her as she described.’
4. May 24, 2014
The pair took a private plane from Boston to LA: Heard says that during the flight Depp, who had been drinking heavily, threw objects at her, pushed a chair at her, slapped her and kicked her in the back before passing out in the toilet.
The judge said: ‘These verbal insults became, in the course of the flight, physical abuse.’
5. August 17, 2014
The couple went to the Bahamas, Depp says to ‘cure his dependence on painkillers’, although Heard claims he was trying to give up other drugs too.
Heard says Depp had ‘several manic episodes’ and his private doctor had to be flown over to help. She alleges that he slapped, kicked and grabbed by the hair during an attack.
The judge said: ‘I find it more likely than not that Mr Depp did push Ms Heard on at least one occasion. I am not able to conclude whether there was more than this one assault.’
6. December 17, 2014
Heard says Depp was ‘violent towards’ her in LA, and later texted calling himself a ‘f****** savage’ and a ‘lunatic’. Depp denies any allegation of violence and says NGN has ‘failed to provide any particulars of the alleged violence’.
But the judge said: ‘In conclusion I am not persuaded that Incident 6 constituted a physical assault of Ms Heard by Mr Depp.’
7. January 25, 2015
While the couple were in Tokyo, Japan, Heard claims Depp shoved and slapped her and grabbed her by the hair, before standing over her and shouting while she was on the floor.
The judge said: ‘I conclude that Mr Depp did assault Ms Heard as she and the Defendants have alleged in Incident 7.’
8. Around March 3-5, 2015
Depp is said to have repeatedly assaulted Heard after an argument over his alleged use of MDMA during a three-day trip to Australia. She says he stayed up all night, taking pills and drinking, and then attacked her again the next morning.
Heard says, the following night, Depp pushed her into a table tennis table, tore off her nightgown and attacked her, before smashing a telephone into a wall and severing the top of his middle finger.
She also claims he had written messages to her around the house in a mixture of paint and blood from his finger, which Depp admits doing while ‘in shock’, as well as having ‘urinated all over the house in an attempt to write messages’, which he denied.
The judge said: ‘I accept Ms Heard’s evidence that she was angered or concerned by Mr Depp’s excessive drinking and consumption of controlled drugs. Her father had been an alcoholic and had physically abused her mother as a result. I accept her evidence that she feared Mr Depp was set on the same path. By the time of Incident 8, I MR JUSTICE NICOL Approved Judgment Depp v NGN and Wootton have found that she herself had been the victim of Mr Depp’s violence. That would have been a further cause of her concern.’
9. March 2015
Heard says Depp became ‘enraged’ when they were in LA with her sister and began destroying things in the house before hitting her ‘hard and repeatedly’. She also claims he tried to push her sister down the stairs before hitting Heard again.
The judge said: ‘In short, I accept that Mr Depp did assault Ms Heard as she and the Defendants have alleged in Incident 9.’
10. August 2015
While they were on the Eastern and Oriental Express in south east Asia, Heard alleges Depp ‘picked a fight’ with her, hit her and pushed her against a wall by the throat, ‘causing her to fear for her life’ – which is denied by Depp.
The judge said: ‘I accept that Ms Heard was assaulted by Mr Depp as she and the Defendants have alleged in Incident 10. I accept that she feared for her life on this occasion.’
11. November 26, 2015
In LA, Depp is alleged to have ripped Heard’s shirt and ‘threw her around the room’, also throwing a wine glass and a ‘heavy glass decanter’ at her, as well as pushing her over a chair which caused her to bang her head against a wall. Depp says they were in LA for Thanksgiving, but denies any allegation of abuse.
The judge said he couldn’t make a judgement on this allegation because it had never been put to Depp while he was giving evidence.
12. December 15, 2015
Heard claims Depp threw a decanter at her in their penthouse in LA, then slapped her and dragged her through the apartment by her hair, allegedly pulling ‘large chunks of hair’ from Heard’s scalp.
She says he then followed her upstairs and pushed her to the floor while shouting ‘you think you’re a f****** tough guy’ before headbutting her.
Heard says that when she told Depp she wanted to leave him he grabbed her and screamed: ‘I f****** will kill you – I’ll f****** kill you, you hear me?’
The judge said: ‘I accept that Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard as she and the Defendants have alleged in Incident 12.’
13. April 21, 2016
Heard says Depp arrived at her birthday party at their LA home late, ‘drunk and high on drugs’ and they had an argument after the guests had left.
She claims he threw a bottle of champagne at her and shoved her to the floor several times before leaving a note reading: ‘Happy F****** Birthday.’
Depp says he arrived at the party around two hours late following a meeting with his new business manager and accountants, and that he was not on drugs but ‘shocked from what he had learnt at the meeting about his business affairs’.
He claims Heard had been ‘drinking heavily’ and attacked him while he was reading in bed, punching him in the face four times before he grabbed her arms to stop her.
The judge said: ‘He assaulted Ms Heard as he had done on previous occasions when he was stressed.’
Depp says the next day Heard or one of her friends ‘defecated in Mr Depp’s and Ms Heard’s bed’, and that Heard later told the building manager Kevin Murphy that it was ‘just a harmless prank’ – at which he point he ‘then resolved to divorce Ms Heard’.
14. May 21, 2016
Depp arrived at their LA apartment, allegedly ‘drunk and high’ while Heard was there with friends.
Heard said Depp became ‘very angry’, throwing her phone at her and hitting her in the eye before smashing ‘everything he could’ with a magnum of champagne.
The judge found: ‘I reach the view that Mr Depp did assault Ms Heard as she alleges in Incident 14 despite the testimony of the witnesses who I have previously listed.’
But he added: ‘I do not accept this characterisation of Ms Heard.’
Mr Depp announced just days after the ruling that he was asked by Warner Brothers to resign from his role in the Harry Potter spin-off franchise Fantastic Beasts – the very role which prompted Mr Wootton to ask how JK Rowling could be ‘genuinely happy’ Mr Depp was cast in the film.
In that statement, he said: ‘The surreal judgement of the court in the UK will not change my fight to tell the truth and I confirm that I plan to appeal.’
His solicitor Jenny Afia, from the Schillings law firm, had said the High Court ruling was ‘as perverse as it is bewildering’, adding: ‘The judgment is so flawed that it would be ridiculous for Mr Depp not to appeal this decision.’
But Ms Heard’s US lawyer, Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, said: ‘For those of us present for the London High Court trial, this decision and judgment are not a surprise.
‘Very soon, we will be presenting even more voluminous evidence in the US.’
Mr Depp is currently embroiled in a separate libel battle in the US, having sued Ms Heard personally over a 2018 Washington Post opinion piece in which she claimed to be a victim of domestic abuse.
The actor is reportedly seeking 50 million US dollars in damages from his ex-wife over the article, which did not mention him by name – but Ms Heard is countersuing for twice that amount, claiming Mr Depp orchestrated a smear camp against her.
That case is due to be heard in Virginia, where the Washington Post is published, some time in 2021.
THE DEFECATION INCIDENT
This came to be known as ‘poo-gate,’ and took place in Los Angeles in April 2016 during Heard’s 30th birthday party.
Depp told the court that he arrived two hours late, after receiving some bad news about his financial losses and that a row broke out between him and Heard.
She told that court that her ex-husband threw a magnum champagne bottle at her and shoved her to the floor several times before leaving a note reading ‘Happy F***ing Birthday’.
The next day, Depp alleged that he had been informed that Heard had defecated in their marital bed and told the building manager that it was ‘just a harmless prank.
He admitted in court that at first, he laughed about the incident, referring to his ex-wife as ‘Amber Turd,’ but it was around this point that he decided to divorce her and moved out of their penthouse.
Heard blamed their small dog Boo for the faeces and told the court that she would never do something so ‘absolutely disgusting.’
She claimed the dog had a problem with messing itself ‘since the weed’- claiming Boo ate a bag of Depp’s cannabis as a puppy.
The judge said today that Amber did not poo in the bed, saying it was more likely to have been one of the couple’s dogs.
THE PHONE THROWING INCIDENT
A month later in May 2016 Depp told the court that he returned to the penthouse to collect his belongings with his private security guards Jerry Judge and Sean Betts.
Heard said Depp became ‘very angry’, throwing her phone at her and hitting her in the eye before smashing ‘everything he could’ with a magnum of champagne after they started rowing over the defecation incident.
Depp claimed his two security guards entered the room when they heard Heard shouting, and saw her ‘repeatedly screaming, ‘stop hitting me, Johnny” while he was 20 feet away in the kitchen.
He also says that two police officers who attended the apartment after the incident ‘saw no injuries or bruising or swelling’.
Both officers also gave evidence via video link and claimed that they did not see Heard with any injuries.
THE ‘SEVERED FINGER’ INCIDENT
Depp was accused of repeatedly assaulting Heard after an argument over his use of MDMA during a three-day trip to Australia, while he was filming Pirates of the Caribbean.
She told the court that he stayed up all night, taking pills and drinking, and then attacked her again the next morning.
The following night, he pushed her into a table tennis table, tore off her nightgown and attacked her, before smashing a telephone into a wall and severing the top of his middle finger.
The court was shown photographs of a mansion they were staying in, which Heard claimed Depp daubed with graffiti using his blood and smashed up parts of it up.
She claims he wrote messages to her around the house in a mixture of paint and blood from his finger – which Mr Depp admitted doing while ‘in shock’ – as well as having ‘urinated all over the house in an attempt to write messages.’
Depp claimed that it was Heard who was violent, throwing a bottle at him which severed the top of his finer and stubbing a cigarette out on his cheek, resulting in him being taken to hospital.
THE LATE LATE SHOW
The High Court was also played excerpts of Heard’s appearance on The Late, Late Show with James Corden in December 2015.
Twenty-four hours before the show she claimed that Depp slapped her, dragged her by the hair through their apartment – pulling clumps of her hair out – and then repeatedly punched her in the head, leaving her with ‘tons of injuries’ including bruised ribs and arms, bruises all over her body, two black eyes, a broken nose and a broken lip.
When asked by Depp’s lawyer Eleanor Laws QC why none of the injuries to her face were visible when she appeared on live television, Heard replied that she had covered them up with makeup.
THE PLANE INCIDENT
Depp and Heard took a private plane from Boston to LA. She claimed that during that time he was drinking heavily, threw objects at her, pushed a chair at her, slapped her and kicked her in the back before passing out in the toilet.
Depp says Heard ‘began to harangue him’ as he was sketching in a notebook, he then tried to ‘playfully tap her on the bottom with his foot’, at which Miss Heard took ‘great offence’ and continued to verbally berate him.
The court was also played an audio recording taken during the incident. During the 18-second clip a woman’s voice can be heard saying ‘keep an eye on him,’ while what sounds like a man makes long, low moans.
While giving evidence, Depp did not confirm that it was him but admitted that he could not remember anybody else making that noise on the plane.
He described the noise as sounding ‘like an animal in pain,’ to which Sasha Wass QC, the Sun’s lawyer responded: ‘I think you are that animal.’
‘DISCO BLOODBATH’ INCIDENT
The court was also shown photographs of Heard’s trashed LA home taken in March 2013. She claimed that the actor became angry and jealous when she had hung a painting, by her ex-partner Tasya Van Ree, by her bed.
Depp was also accused of trying to set it on fire and hitting Heard so hard that blood from her lip ended up on the wall.
Depp maintained that he simply asked Heard to move the painting from the bedroom ‘as a courtesy’ and that she had an ‘extreme reaction’.
He also says a text he sent later, describing the evening as a ‘disco bloodbath’, was designed to placate Heard and not an apology for alleged violence.
AUSTRALIA DOG SMUGGLING INCIDENT
Heard was accused of forcing two of Depp’s staff to lie about their two dogs being taken to Australia in April 2015, despite them repeatedly telling her that it was not legal for them to be taken.
Kevin Murphy, who worked for the Pirates of the Caribbean star for almost eight years, alleged that Heard had ‘demanded’ he make a false statement about the animals being ‘smuggled’ into the country.
He also alleged in a statement that she had asked him to contact her former assistant Kate James and ask her to lie under oath to an Australian court.
In October 2015 Heard faced criminal proceedings in Australia for taking the couple’s two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, into the country illegally.
She and Depp recorded a now-famous video in 2016 apologising for doing so.
Murphy claim that he was put ‘under pressure’ by Heard for making a false statement, which he later retracted once she and Depp split.