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Hollywood superstar Johnny Depp has lost his libel case against the Sun newspaper and its executive editor Dan Wootton over the article ‘Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife-beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?’ After a 16 day trial over the summer at the Royal Court of Justice in London, the judge found, on the balance of probabilities, that the allegations made by the Sun were substantially true.

The Sun relied upon 14 allegations of violence by Depp against his then wife Amber Heard, who appeared as a witness for the newspaper. The judge found that 12 of them had taken place, and that Mr Depp was inebriated with alcohol and/or drugs such as cocaine and MDMA during most of these assaults. These included an incident where allegedly Depp kicked and screamed at Heard during a flight on a private jet, after which he passed out in the plane’s bathroom; and an incident that Heard said took place during a train journey in south-east Asia as part of the couple’s honeymoon, where Depp hit Heard and held her by the throat. On the well-publicised incident where Depp badly cut his finger, using it to write graffiti around a rented house in Australia, the judge found Depp had assaulted Heard and that Heard was not responsible for Depp’s injury.

The judge rejected Depp’s characterisation of Heard as a gold-digger who had invented her claims that he was violent as an ‘insurance policy’. Heard donated the $7m she received in the divorce settlement to charity.

The case is an example of the defence of truth being used successfully in a libel claim. As both sides said at trial, it came down to which side’s evidence the judge believed.

Since the judgment, Depp has agreed to resign from Fantastic Beasts, the JK Rowling film series set in the same world as Harry Potter, in which he plays Grindelwald.

Depp has vowed to appeal the judgment, with his lawyers describing it as ‘flawed’, and ‘as perverse as it is bewildering’. It is generally difficult to overturn the detailed factual findings of a judge who has heard the evidence in person. However, no details of any appeal have yet been made public. zoom-in will report on any further developments.

Separately, Depp is suing Heard for libel in Virginia, USA, over an article she wrote in the Washington Post in which she claimed she was a domestic abuse survivor. That case may well involve many of the same allegations. There will be a number of differences, however. As well as Heard being sued personally in the US case (in the English case she was merely a witness for the defendant newspaper), that case will be decided by a jury rather than a judge. Heard has also filed a counterclaim against Depp, alleging he has ‘orchestrated a false and defamatory smear campaign’ against her. The trial is not expected to take place until May 2021.