Johnny Depp refused permission to appeal ‘wife beater’ article ruling that he assaulted Amber Heard

Johnny Depp has been refused permission to appeal a High Court ruling that he assaulted his ex-wife Amber Heard and made her fear for her life.

In November, three months after the end of a high-profile trial, the judge rejected Depp‘s claim that The Sun newspaper had libelled the actor in a 2018 article calling him a "wife beater".

The 57-year-old had taken legal action against owners News Group Newspapers (NGN) and its then executive editor Dan Wootton over the column, which referred to "overwhelming evidence" he attacked his 34-year-old ex-wife several times during their relationship.

Depp has always strenuously denied Heard‘s allegations and has not been charged with a criminal offence. However, in the civil case, Judge Andrew Nicol found the article was "substantially true".

Requesting permission to appeal at a hearing held earlier in March, the star’s lawyers argued that he had not received a fair trial and said they had "fresh evidence" about Heard, accusing her of lying about donating her full $7 million (£5.5 million) divorce settlement to charity.

However, on Thursday, Court of Appeal judges refused Depp’s application, saying the original hearing "was full and fair" and that the trial judge "gave thorough reasons for his conclusions which have not been shown even arguably to be vitiated by any error of approach or mistake of law".

After the decision was handed down, Depp’s solicitor said there were "clear and objective reasons to seriously question" the trial judge’s decision but that the actor is now looking to a separate libel case against Heard in the US, at which he will present "complete, irrefutable evidence of the truth".

A spokeswoman for Heard said she was "pleased – but not surprised" by the appeal judges’ decision, while The Sun said it vindicated the actress.

Handing down the ruling, Lord Justice Underhill said: "We refuse Mr Depp’s application to admit further evidence in support of his proposed appeal and we conclude that the appeal has no real prospect of success and that there is no other compelling reason for it to be heard."

Addressing the claims about Heard’s divorce settlement, the appeal judges said it was "pure speculation" and in their view "very unlikely" that the trial judge "gave any weight to general considerations about her character of the kind suggested" by the actor’s lawyers.

"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," the judgment said.

In a statement, Depp’s solicitor Joelle Rich said: "The evidence presented at last week’s hearing further demonstrates that there are clear and objective reasons to seriously question the decision reached in the UK court.

"Mr Depp looks forward to presenting the complete, irrefutable evidence of the truth in the US libel case against Ms Heard, where she will have to provide full disclosure."

A spokeswoman for Heard said: "We are pleased – but by no means surprised – by the court’s denial of Mr Depp’s application for appeal. The evidence presented in the UK case was overwhelming and undeniable."

Heard’s spokeswoman said Depp’s claim of "new and important evidence was nothing more than a press strategy" which had been "soundly rejected by the court".

The Sun also released a statement, saying: "The Sun had every confidence that this leave to appeal application would not be granted and are pleased with today’s decision.

"The case had a full, fair and proper hearing, and today’s decision vindicates the courageous evidence that Amber Heard gave to the court about domestic abuse, despite repeated attempts to undermine and silence her by the perpetrator.

"The Sun will continue to stand up and campaign for victims of domestic abuse."

Jeffrey Smele, partner at law firm Simons Muirhead and Burton, which represented NGN during the trial, said it was a "victory for the freedom of the press and for victims of domestic violence everywhere".

Following last year’s trial, the judge concluded that 12 of the 14 alleged incidents of domestic violence, relied on by NGN as evidence, had occurred.

He found that Depp assaulted Heard on a dozen occasions and put her in "fear for her life" on three occasions, including one the actress described as a "three-day hostage situation" in Australia in March 2015.

Incidents on the Eastern and Oriental Express in Southeast Asia in August 2015 and again in LA in December that year, which were detailed during the trial, also left Heard afraid, the judge found.

Following the trial ruling in November, one of Depp’s solicitors, Jenny Afia, hit out at the decision, saying it was "as perverse as it is bewildering".

Days after the judgment, Depp revealed he had been asked by Warner Brothers to step down from his role in the Harry Potter spin-off franchise Fantastic Beasts.

As the subject of The Sun’s 2018 article, it was this role that sparked the entire case – with Wootton asking in his column how author JK Rowling could be "genuinely happy" about Depp’s casting.

The actor has brought separate libel action in the US. In this case, he has sued Heard personally over a 2018 Washington Post opinion piece in which she wrote about domestic abuse, but did not name her ex-husband.

That hearing was due to take place in May, but has now been pushed back to April 2022.

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