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Actor Johnny Depp to find out if he can appeal UK ‘wife-beater’ ruling

Johnny Depp and ex wife

Hollywood superstar Johnny Depp will on Thursday find out if he can appeal against a British court ruling that upheld claims he beat his ex-wife Amber Heard. The 57-year-old “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor brought a libel claim against The Sun tabloid for a 2018 article that branded him a “wife-beater”.

But a judge ruled against him and he was ordered to pay the newspaper’s publishers News Group Newspapers (NGN) £628,000 ($873,000, 733,000 euros) in legal costs. The judge in the case initially blocked an immediate appeal, saying he did not think it had a “reasonable prospect of success” but allowed a direct application to the Court of Appeal.

A hearing was held last week and a written ruling on whether to grant the application will be handed down at 1000 GMT. In the application, Depp’s lawyers cast doubt on testimony given by his Amber Heard at the original libel trial. They argued in submissions she had given the whole of her divorce settlement to charity had prejudiced the case against Depp, while only a fraction had been paid.

But a lawyer for NGN dismissed the issue, saying Heard, 34, said she had “donated the money, not that she had paid it” and that the two charities had understood the fee would be paid in instalments. Depp himself did not appear at the appeal application.

Excruciating detail

The November ruling has already damaged Depp’s career, with the actor saying afterwards he was asked to step down from his role in the “Fantastic Beasts” film franchise based on the book by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

The case, which laid bare the actor’s battle with drink and drugs, was dubbed “the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century”. NGN relied on the defence of truth, arguing it had a valid basis for the 2018 story by detailing 14 alleged instances of Depp abusing Heard.

The judge dismissed Depp’s claim after three weeks of revelations about the couple’s stormy relationship, saying the article had been proven to be “substantially true”.

Depp brought the action because he said The Sun’s allegations had done a “disservice” to the #MeToo movement it was trying to support, his lawyer David Sherborne said. The 16 days of proceedings in July, which both Depp and Heard attended, exposed the couple’s troubled and volatile relationship in excruciating detail. Depp faced days of cross-examination in which the star admitted to only hazily remembering some events because he was high on drugs.

But he vehemently rejected accusations he hurt Heard while battling a drug addiction over a three-year span that ended with her 2016 decision to seek a restraining order and file for divorce. He is also suing Heard in the United States over a 2018 Washington Post article in which she claimed to be a victim of domestic violence.

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