A piece in today’s Telegraph:
Mr Depp has been refused permission to appeal the ruling that he left his ex-wife in “fear for her life”
Johnny Depp has been refused permission to appeal against a High Court ruling that he assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard and left her in “fear for her life”.
Following a three-week trial in July last year, Mr Justice Nicol dismissed the Hollywood star’s libel claim against the publisher of The Sun, finding that an April 2018 column calling Mr Depp a “wife beater” was “substantially true”.
The judge ruled Mr Depp, 57, assaulted Ms Heard, 34, on a dozen occasions and put her in “fear for her life” three times.
At the hearing last week, Mr Depp’s lawyers asked the court to consider fresh evidence relating to what they said was Ms Heard’s claim that she gave her $7 million (£5.5 million) divorce settlement to charity.
But the Court of Appeal has rejected that request, ruling that there is no reason to believe the Judge’s decision was influenced by what Ms Heard had said about the donations.
After the couple divorced in 2016, Ms Heard said she would split the $7 million between the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Last week, Mr Depp’s barrister Andrew Caldecott QC told the court that the claim was a “calculated and manipulative lie”.
Mr Caldecott said the hospital wrote to Mr Depp’s business adviser in 2019 to say Ms Heard had not made “any payments”.
The court heard just $100,000 (£72,000) was donated to the hospital and $450,000 (£322,000) to the ACLU, although Ms Heard claims she made a further $500,000 (£358,000) donation to the second charity anonymously.
Mr Caldecott said the claims had given Ms Heard “a considerable boost to her credibility as a person”, and had “tipped the scales against Mr Depp from the very beginning”.
Lord Justice Dingemans and Lord Justice Underhill on Thursday rejected the new arguments, ruling that Mr Depp’s legal team had the opportunity to question Ms Heard about the donations during the original trial but failed to.
“It is clear that Mr Depp believed from the moment that Ms Heard made her public announcement that she did not intend to give the $7m to charity,” the judges ruled.
“Despite the scepticism of Mr Depp and his lawyers about whether the $7m had been paid, Ms Heard’s evidence in her witness statement was not challenged in cross-examination.”
They continued: “Nor…do we believe that the Judge would have reached a different conclusion if it had been established before him that Ms Heard had given a misleading impression about how much of the $7m which she said that she had donated to charity had in fact been paid.”
In November, Mr Justice Nicol rejected Mr Depp’s contention that Ms Heard was a “gold-digger”, saying in his ruling: “Her donation of the seven million US dollars to charity is hardly the act one would expect of a gold-digger.”
But Mr Caldecott argued that if “the truth about the charity claim emerged at the trial, it would have materially affected Mr Justice Nicol’s consideration of Ms Heard’s evidence as a whole”.
He said the fact Ms Heard publicly donated her divorce settlement to charity was relevant to “the likelihood of her being a victim of grave domestic violence”.
Mr Caldecott said the donation was “a wholly remarkable act of philanthropy, if true”, adding it was also “a potent subliminal message: ‘I want him to pay, but I do not want to keep a dime of his money because of the way I have been treated”‘.
He told the court: “In the context of this case, it implies revulsion at the way he has treated her physically.”
But Adam Wolanski QC, representing The Sun’s publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN), said the new evidence Mr Depp wanted to rely on “would not have had any impact” on the result of the trial.
He said the issue of donating the settlement to charity was only of relevance to “the so-called ‘gold-digger’ thesis, and that was of course a thesis that was expressly abandoned by Mr Depp’s legal team during the trial”.
Mr Wolanski added: “The labelling of Ms Heard as a gold-digger was a misogynistic trope. The gold-digger theory was hopeless.”
He also rejected Mr Depp’s contention that Ms Heard had lied about donating her divorce settlement to charity, saying: “The information does not demonstrate that Ms Heard lied.”
Mr Wolanski added that Ms Heard had paid “in total, some $950,000 to the ACLU and $850,000 to the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles”.
On Thursday morning, Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Dingemans will give the court’s ruling on whether Mr Depp can bring an appeal against the High Court judgment.
The Court of Appeal’s decision will be announced at the Royal Courts of Justice in London at 10am.
Mr Depp sued NGN in June 2018 over the column by The Sun’s executive editor Dan Wootton, which referred to “overwhelming evidence” he attacked Ms Heard.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Nicol concluded 12 of the 14 alleged incidents of domestic violence relied on by NGN in its defence of the actor’s claim did occur.
The judge also found Mr Depp put Ms Heard in “fear for her life” on three occasions, including one the actress described as a “three-day hostage situation” in Australia in March 2015.
Days after the ruling in November, Mr Depp announced he had been asked by Warner Brothers to resign from his role in the Harry Potter spin-off franchise Fantastic Beasts – a role that prompted Mr Wootton to ask how JK Rowling could be “genuinely happy” that Mr Depp was cast in the film.
Mr Depp is embroiled in a separate libel battle in the US, having sued Ms Heard personally over a 2018 Washington Post opinion piece in which she claimed to be a victim of domestic abuse but did not mention the actor by name.
The actor’s £50 million (£35 million) US case against Ms Heard was recently delayed until April 2022.
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