The description of Johnny Depp as a “wife beater” is “entirely accurate and truthful”, lawyers for News Group Newspapers have told a High Court judge.
Evidence, including photos, audio recordings, and the Hollywood star’s own text messages supports the defense that Depp “beat his wife Amber Heard, causing her to suffer significant injury and on occasion leading to her fearing for her life”, they argued.
Depp, 57, is suing NGN, publisher of The Sun newspaper, and its executive editor Dan Wootton over an article which called him a “wife beater”.
The article related to allegations made against Depp by Heard, 34, that he was violent towards her during their marriage – claims he denies.
In a written opening note at the start of the three-week trial in London – which is being heard by Mr Justice Nicol – Sasha Wass QC, barrister for NGN, said: “The defendants will demonstrate that the description of Mr Depp as a ‘wife beater’ is entirely accurate and truthful.
“They will show that the sting of the articles is correct – namely that the claimant beat his wife Amber Heard, causing her to suffer significant injury and on occasion leading to her fearing for her life.
“This defence is supported by witness testimony, medical evidence, photographs, video, audio recordings, digital evidence and Mr Depp’s own texts.”
In her note Wass described Heard as an “intelligent and independent woman who has developed her own career as an actress”.
Wass said that during the relationship, Heard was “understanding and supportive” of all Depp’s attempts to rehabilitate himself” and during the early period of his attempts to “kick his addiction” he was “appreciative” of her support.
But she said that on occasions, when he “failed to control his alcohol and substance abuse”, Depp “turned his rage and frustration on Ms Heard, berating her and launching into a variety of vile, crude and unreasonable accusations.”
Wass said: “On such occasions, Mr Depp’s aggression typically descended into physically destructive behaviour, including the use of violence against her. His ‘wife beating’ behaviour included throwing objects at her, slapping her across the face, kicking her, gripping her around the throat and threatening to kill her.
“In periods of sobriety following Mr Depp’s destructive rages, he recognised the problems he faced, apologised to Ms Heard and blamed what he described as ‘his illness’. He referred to his drunken and violent persona as ‘the monster’.
“When sober, Mr Depp was capable of kindness, charm and generosity. The side of character which he described as ‘the monster’ was jealous, controlling, violent and savage. It is these characteristics which qualify him for the term ‘wife beater’.”
Wass argued that during his evidence, Depp “will seek to present as a kind and charming individual”.
But she added: “The defendants will suggest that either Mr Depp is a pathological liar or his excessive alcohol and drug abuse have detached him from any insight into his own conduct.
“Either way, what he did to Amber Heard was to beat her.
“The description of him in the online article in The Sun newspaper is correct, true and accurate.”
Depp’s lawyer told the court he “is not and never has been a wife beater” and that his case is “not a case about money” but about “vindication”.
In a written opening note, the actor’s lead counsel, David Sherborne, said the Hollywood star has come to court “to clear his reputation”.
He also argued that Depp’s ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, has “invented these stories of serious violence” and that she was the “abuser” in the relationship.
In his written opening remarks, Sherborne said that one of the issues the court needs to decide is “whether the allegations published by the defendants are true”.
“If it finds that they are untrue, as we say they are, then the court will proceed to make an award of damages,” he said.
“It will come as no surprise to hear that this is not a case about money. It is about vindication. Mr Depp has made that clear at various hearings.
“That is why he has come here – to clear his reputation.”
In his note, Sherborne gave a summary of the main allegations of domestic violence at the heart of the case.
He said it is Depp’s case that he “did not attack Ms Heard on these occasions or at all”.
“Ms Heard has invented these stories of serious violence,” the barrister said.
“He (Depp) is not and never has been a wife-beater.
“Indeed, he says that it was Ms Heard who was the one who started physical fights, who punched or hit him (and there was little he could really do to stop this); she was the abuser, not him. And the contemporaneous evidence fully supports that, as the court will hear.”
Sherborne said the article written by Dan Wootton “repeated Ms Heard’s allegations, referring to what he described as ‘overwhelming evidence’ in her favour, in an obvious attempt to confirm categorically in the readers’ minds, several million readers’ minds, that these appalling and serious allegations of criminality were true”.
He added that Wootton and The Sun newspaper “also chose to make deliberate and highly topical references to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements” as well as to disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein.