01:32, November 02 105 0 theguardian.com

2020-11-02 01:32:04
London high court to deliver ruling on Johnny Depp libel case

The high court in London is to hand down its ruling on the libel case between Johnny Depp and the Sun newspaper at 10am on Monday, four months on from the courtroom battle between the actor and his ex-wife Amber Heard.

Trial judge Mr Justice Nicol will deliver his long-awaited ruling via the internet. The Pirates of the Caribbean actor is suing the tabloid’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article which labelled him a “wife-beater”.

In its piece, the Sun said it had seen “overwhelming evidence” the 57-year-old attacked Heard, 34, during their relationship – a claim Depp strenuously denies.

The case – described in media coverage as the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century – received worldwide attention as it unfolded over three weeks in July at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Both Depp and Heard attended the 16-day trial, in which claims of brutal violence and intimate details of their tempestuous relationship were aired. The court heard evidence from both actors, along with friends and relatives of the couple, and several former and current employees.

In closing arguments, Depp’s barrister, David Sherborne, said his client’s case was about vindication. “What is important to Mr Depp is clearing his name of these appalling allegations, expanded on as it has been over the last four years, as a result of which he has lost nothing less than everything, he would say,” he said.

“When I say he has lost everything, to him obviously everything is his reputation. This is not about money, this is vindicating him.”

Spending 20 hours in the witness box over five days, Depp faced intense questioning about his Hollywood lifestyle, his use of drink and drugs, allegations of violence, and his friendships and associations.

Sasha Wass QC, for NGN, told the court there was “no doubt that Mr Depp regularly and systematically abused his wife,” adding: “The characterisation that he is a wife-beater is entirely truthful.”

Depp can expect to receive between £180,000 to £200,000 in damages if he wins. He has run up an estimated £5m in legal costs.

Whoever loses the case is likely to be made to cover the bulk of the winner’s legal costs, plus their own.

Monday’s decision, however, may not spell the end of the legal battle, with one law expert saying whichever party loses will almost certainly appeal.

Depp also is bringing a separate claim against Heard in the US, suing her for $50m (£38.7m) over a column she wrote.