LONDON – Lawyers for British tabloid The Sun urged a U.K. judge on Thursday to throw out Johnny Depp’s libel claim against the paper because the film star allegedly failed to disclose evidence relating to his drug use.
Depp is suing the newspaper’s publisher, News Group Newspapers, and Executive Editor Dan Wootton over a 2018 article claiming the actor was violent and abusive to his ex-wife Amber Heard.
The trial is due to open at the High Court in London on July 7. At a preliminary hearing on Thursday, The Sun’s lawyers argued the case should be dismissed because Depp had failed to disclose text messages showing that he tried to buy “MDMA and other narcotics” while he was in Australia with Heard in 2015.
The newspaper’s lawyer, Adam Wolanski, said withholding the texts was a breach of a previous court order requiring Depp to provide all documents from separate libel proceedings against Heard in the United States.
“There is a real risk that the claimant has failed to provide proper disclosure to the defendants, and that the defendants cannot have a fair trial,” he said.
Wolanski said the issue of drug-taking was relevant because “it is the defendants’ case that drugs and alcohol had an influence on the claimant’s behavior towards Ms. Heard.”
In court, Wolanski read out passages of Heard’s evidence in which she claims she was subjected to “a three-day ordeal of physical assaults” by her former husband, during which time he took MDMA, also known as ecstasy, and drank heavily.
Depp strongly denies being violent. His lawyer, David Sherborne, said the libel case was about “whether the defendants can prove that the claimant committed serious domestic violence and put Ms. Heard in fear. It is not about whether Mr. Depp asks for drugs.”
In a witness statement, Depp said he had been “open about my challenges with alcoholism and addiction throughout my life.“ He said drugs or alcohol never made him “undertake violence against anyone.”
Judge Andrew Nicol said he would rule on The Sun's application in the next few days.
Depp, 57, and Heard, 34, met on the set of the 2011 comedy “The Rum Diary” and married in Los Angeles in February 2015. They divorced in 2017.
Each accuses the other of being abusive, and Depp is also suing Heard for libel in the United States.
Depp and Heard are both expected to give evidence in person at the London trial, which was postponed from March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The socially distanced trial is scheduled to last for three weeks. Witnesses are likely to include Depp’s ex-partners Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder, who have both submitted statements supporting the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star.