The High Court has begun hearing closing submissions in Johnny Depp’s defamation case against The Sun newspaper, as one of the most high-profile libel trials in British legal history draws to a close.
Lawyers for the tabloid’s publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN) started their closing remarks on Monday morning on the penultimate day of a court battle which has gripped the world’s media and Hollywood.
Depp’s legal team will deliver their final submissions on Tuesday. The actor is suing NGN and The Sun’s executive editor Dan Wootton over a 2018 article which described him as a “wife beater”.
The Pirates Of The Caribbean star has attended every day of the trial at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, which has heard allegations of domestic abuse as well as intimate and embarrassing details of Depp’s relationship with ex-wife Amber Heard, the actor and model.
In her closing remarks, NGN barrister Sasha Wass told the court it had been presented with “overwhelming evidence of domestic violence of wife-beating behaviour, catalogued over at three year period between 2013 and 2016."
She said Depp’s “drug and alcohol-fuelled lifestyle” provided the backdrop to “violence and terrifying behaviour” which “put Ms Heard in fear of her life”.
Both Depp and Heard given evidence during the three-week trial, where they have been greeted each morning by photographers and fans.
Depp has denied 14 allegations of domestic violence on which NGN is relying in defence against his defamation claim.
Heard, 34, claimed her ex-husband threatened to kill her “many times, especially later in our relationship”, and would blame his actions on a “self-created third party” he called “the monster”.
In a witness statement, she accused Depp of verbal and physical abuse, including screaming, swearing, punching, slapping, kicking, headbutting and choking, as well as “extremely controlling and intimidating behaviour”.
Depp, 57, has insisted the claims are “a choreographed hoax”. He told the court his tempestuous relationship with Heard was “a crime scene waiting to happen” and accused her of being violent towards him while “building a dossier very early on” in their relationship to align herself with the #MeToo movement.
In a written outline of the actor’s case, Depp’s barrister David Sherbourne said the 2018 article made “defamatory allegations of the utmost seriousness”.
“The claimant’s position is clear – Ms Heard’s allegations are complete lies,” said the barrister.
Ms Wass told the court the NGN’s defence was “one of truth, namely that Mr Depp did indeed beat his wife”.
She added: “For the defence of truth to be substantiated, the defendants need to prove on a balance of probabilities that Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard on at least one occasion.
“During the last two weeks, the defendants have established that many more than one incident of wife-beating took place over the course of the relationship between the claimant and Amber Heard.”
Trial judge Andrew Nicol is to reserve his judgment until a later date.