Johnny Depp loses libel case over newspaper article labelling him a ‘wife beater’

Johnny Depp
(Image credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Johnny Depp has lost his libel case against the Sun newspaper over a 2018 website article which described him as a “wife beater”. The film star and Hollywood Vampires guitarist sued the paper after it claimed he assaulted his ex-wife Amber Heard, a claim which Depp denies.

The 57-year-old actor sued News Group Newspapers (NGN), the Sun’s publisher, and the paper’s executive editor Dan Wootton over an article, published on the Sun's website on April 27, 2018, which featured the headline: Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be 'genuinely happy' casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?

The case was heard at London’s Royal Courts of Justice in July, and saw Heard give evidence against her former husband, outlining 14 alleged incidents of domestic abuse between 2013 and 2016, when the couple split up.

During the trial, The Sun maintained that the article was accurate, and in a ruling delivered today (November 2) by Judge Mr Justice Nicol at London’s High Court, the court found that the Sun had proven what was in the article to be “substantially true”, finding that 12 of the 14 alleged incidents of domestic abuse put to the court had occurred.

In dismissing Depp's claims, Justice Nicol said: 'The claimant has not succeeded in his action for libel. Although he has proved the necessary elements of his cause of action in libel, the defendants have shown that what they published in the meaning which I have held the words to bear was substantially true.”

A spokesperson for the Sun said: “Domestic abuse victims must never be silenced and we thank the judge for his careful consideration and thank Amber Heard for her courage in giving evidence to the court.”

Johnny Depp's lawyer called the judgement “bewildering”, “flawed” and “perverse”, and stated “it would be ridiculous for Mr Depp not to appeal this decision.”

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.