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Cinema

UK Court Rejects Depp Bid to Appeal “Wife Beater” Ruling

LONDON — A British court on Thursday refused Johnny Depp permission to appeal a judge's ruling that he assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard, saying his attempt to overturn the decision had "no real prospect of success."

Two Court of Appeal judges said the Hollywood star cannot challenge the High Court's rejection of his libel lawsuit against publisher of The Sun newspaper for labeling him a "wife beater" in an article.

The justices, James Dingemans and Nicholas Underhill, said the earlier court hearing was "full and fair" and the trial judge's conclusions "have not been shown even arguably to be vitiated by any error of approach or mistake of law."

They concluded that "the appeal has no real prospect of success and that there is no other compelling reason for it to be heard."

High Court Justice Andrew Nicol ruled in November that allegations against Depp, made in a April 2018 article, were "substantially true." The judge ruled that Depp, 57, assaulted Heard, 34, on a dozen occasions and put her in fear for her life three times. 

Lawyers for Depp argued at a court hearing last week that Depp hadn't received a fair hearing and that Heard was an unreliable witness. As evidence of her unreliability, they claimed that Heard hadn't kept her promise to donate her $7 million divorce settlement to charity.

The appeals judges said it was "pure speculation, and in our view very unlikely" that the fate of the divorce money influenced judge Nicol's decision.

"It is clear from a reading of the judgment as a whole that the judge based his conclusions on each of the incidents on his extremely detailed review of the evidence specific to each incident," they said.

"In an approach of that kind there was little need or room for the judge to give weight to any general assessment of Ms. Heard's credibility."

Depp and Heard met on the set of the 2011 comedy "The Rum Diary" and married in Los Angeles in February 2015. Heard, a model and actress, filed for divorce the following year and obtained a restraining order against Depp on the grounds of domestic abuse. The divorce was finalized in 2017.

The High Court ruling came after a headline-grabbing three-week trial in July, in which Depp and Heard gave conflicting accounts of their brief, tempestuous marriage, with each accusing the other of being controlling, violent and deceitful.

During the trial Depp acknowledged wide-ranging drug problems, but accused Heard of making up abuse allegations and insisted he was "not a violent person, especially with women."

Heard's public relations firm said in a statement that she was "pleased – but by no means surprised" by the Court of Appeal decision.

"Mr. Depp's claim of new and important evidence was nothing more than a press strategy, and has been soundly rejected by the court," the statement said.

Jeffrey Smele of law firm Simons Muirhead and Burton, which represented The Sun's publisher News Group Newspapers, said Thursday's ruling was "a victory for the freedom of the press and for victims of domestic violence everywhere."

Depp's lawyers have said that the allegations in The Sun caused "serious harm" to the actor's reputation and "significant distress and embarrassment." In the wake of the November court ruling, Depp said he was leaving the "Fantastic Beasts" film franchise after studio Warner Bros. requested his resignation.

Depp is also suing Heard for $50 million in Virginia over a Washington Post op-ed essay that she wrote about domestic violence. The trial in that case was recently delayed until April 2022.

Depp's British lawyer, Joelle Rich of Schillings Partners, said "there are clear and objective reasons to seriously question the decision reached in the U.K. court."

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

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