UK

Johnny Depp ‘not a wife beater’ and Amber Heard allegations are ‘lies’, court hears

Johnny Depp is not a "wife beater" and allegations of violence made by his ex-wife Amber Heard are "complete lies", the High Court has been told by his lawyers on the first day of a libel trial.

The Hollywood star is suing The Sun's publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an article published in April 2018 which referred to "overwhelming evidence" that he attacked Heardduring their relationship – claims he has strenuously denied.

He and Heard are at London's High Court today, after arriving through separate entrances, both wearing scarves as face masks.

Image: Depp and Heard (below) were met by dozens of photographers as they arrived at the court in London
Amber Heard arrives at the High Court for the first day of Johnny Depp's libel trial against The Sun

Depp'slegal team has said it is "not a case about money" but about "vindication", with the star, 57, wanting to "clear his reputation" following the claims.

They have also argued that Heard, 34, has "invented these stories of serious violence" and that she was the "abuser" in the relationship.

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However, lawyers for News Group Newspapers have told the court that The Sun's description of Depp was "entirely accurate and truthful".

Appearing as the first witness, Depp was asked about the allegations of abuse, and also about his drug-taking and relationships with famous figures such as writer Hunter S Thompson, musicians Keith Richards and Marilyn Manson, and fellow actor Paul Bettany.

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He told the court he is not the "horrible monster" he has been portrayed as.

In a written outline of the actor's case, his barrister, David Sherborne, said The Sun's article amounted to a "full-scale attack" on Depp as a "wife beater" with "defamatory allegations of the utmost seriousness".

Mr Sherborne said: "The author deploys a panoply of cultural and topical references – namely the #MeToo movement, the Time's Up movement and the disgraced film mogul and serial abuser of women Harvey Weinstein – in order to convey the seriousness of what the claimant is alleged to have done.

Amber Heard. Pic: James Veysey/Shutterstock
Image: Heard has said she is 'trying to move on with her life'. Pic: James Veysey/Shutterstock

"They are allegations which the claimant absolutely denies, and which, at the time of publication, he had already publicly denied."

Mr Sherborne continued: "The claimant's position is clear – Ms Heard's allegations are complete lies.

"The claimant was not violent towards Ms Heard, it was she who was violent to him."

The main allegations of domestic violence the case is centred on were summarised by Mr Sherborne.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard arrive at the "3 Days To Kill" at ArcLight Cinemas on February 12, 2014 in Hollywood, California.
Image: Depp has denied allegations of assault during his relationship with Heard

"He (Depp) is not and never has been a wife beater," he said.

"Indeed, he says that it was Ms Heard who was the one who started physical fights, who punched or hit him (and there was little he could really do to stop this); she was the abuser, not him."

The barrister said that evidence will be presented to the court which supports this claim.

Speaking about The Sun's article, written by Mr Wootton, he said it "repeated Ms Heard's allegations, referring to what he described as 'overwhelming evidence' in her favour, in an obvious attempt to confirm categorically in the readers' minds – several million readers' minds – that these appalling and serious allegations of criminality were true".

Later in the trial, the court is expected to hear evidence by video-link from actresses Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder, former partners of Depp who both say he was never violent towards them, as well as Heard's friends, who claim they were present when the star was abusive.

Winona Ryder & Johnny Depp at the Edward Scissorhands premiere in 1990
Image: Depp's previous partners Winona Ryder and Vanessa Paradis (below) are expected to give evidence
Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis

Mr Sherborne said the "starkly contrasting nature of the evidence" given by Depp and Heard is "one of the defining features of this case" and that there is "no real room for a middle ground here".

He continued: "One side is plainly lying, and to an extraordinary extent.

"Either Ms Heard's allegations are true, in all their various forms now, and therefore Mr Depp has chosen to launch and pursue a lengthy libel claim despite knowing that the article which forms the subject matter of the claim is completely true.

"Or, as we say, Ms Heard has concocted them, embellishing and adding to them over the years."

If this is found to be the case, Mr Sherborne said, it means Depp "is right in seeking vindication before this court from a hugely influential newspaper that sought to act as judge (and jury) by endorsing and convicting him in relation to Ms Heard's allegations, not to mention demanding an end to his career as the punishment he supposedly deserved".

Actor Johnny Depp arrives at the High Court in London, Britain July 7, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Image: Lawyers for Depp claim it is Heard who was abusive towards him

He continued: "You might be forgiven for wondering why would Mr Depp put himself through all of this process otherwise, ie if he were in fact guilty.

"That is the determination for this court. Mr Depp is either guilty of being a wife beater for having assaulted his ex-wife on numerous occasions, causing the most appalling injuries, or he has been very seriously and wrongly accused."

The actor was asked by his barrister about a conversation between him and Heard in September 2015, which was recorded.

Mr Sherborne read from an extract of the recording, in which Heard said to Depp: "You got hit… but I did not punch you. I did not f****** deck you. I f****** was hitting you".

Heard then went on to say "you are a f****** baby", to which Depp said: "Because you start physical fights."

The star said he "wanted to avoid another confrontation", adding: "As was my practice in these situations, whenever it would escalate I would try to go to my own corner as it were… before things got out of hand."

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