Johnny Depp Loses Libel Case Against British Newspaper

Recorded on November 4, 2020

Actor Johnny Depp has lost his libel case against the publisher of Britain’s The Sun newspaper. The published allegation that he was an abusive husband sparked high-profile legal action between Depp and his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, earlier this year. Attorney Ben Barry is on the radio with WIZN explaining the case and the result.

Please give it a listen or read the transcript below.

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Joe: 106.7 WIZN, and that’s Pink Floyd with “Young Lust,” heard Def Leppard in “Rock of Ages” before that. Joe Vega taking you through your Wednesday Rocking Ride Home. A couple of days ago, the news broke that Johnny Depp had lost his libel lawsuit against the British tabloid, “The Sun.” And I was talking about it on the air, and I remember as I was relating the story to you, the listener, I was saying how I wish I had Ben Barry on the phone from Martin Harding & Mazzotti right now to talk to him about the case. So of course, I went and called him, have him on the phone right now. Hello, Ben.

Ben: Hello, Joe.

Joe: So we talked off the air real quick and I know you’re familiar with the case, and I was just hoping that you could explain this libel lawsuit with Johnny Depp for us.

Ben: Yeah, sure. So we’ve dealt with defamation cases on the show before, which is where somebody either writes or says something defamatory about a person. So if you go out and you say, “Hey, you know, so and so is a wife-beater,” that would be something where that person could say, “Look, that was a known falsity that was spoken, and they’ve slandered me.” In this case, Johnny Depp’s case, “The Sun” newspaper published something that was widely disseminated that alleged that he was a wife-beater, or called him a wife-beater.

And he sued them, because it was in writing, he sued them under a claim, under libel or written statement published to another that said something false or misleading or inaccurate about the person. And so this case goes to court in the UK, and the judge made a ruling that they found that “The Sun” had a viable defense, and a defense to libel and/or slander or defamation case is the truth. It’s the best defense. And so “The Sun” by way of producing testimony from the person who Johnny Depp had been divorced from…

Joe: Amber Heard, yeah.

Ben: …where the allegations come from. Right. So they basically put on the truth. They said, “Look, Judge, here’s all the documents, here’s all the testimony. We believe that calling Johnny Depp a wife-beater, is actually true, because at the time of his marriage, and his wife was beaten by him. And so, therefore, the truth is that he is this thing that we called him and so there’s no claim.” And the court decided on behalf of “The Sun.”

Joe: Now, going back to my years at SUNY Plattsburgh, communication courses, I remember them talking about how it’s a different animal when you’re a public figure as opposed to a private person. Johnny Depp is obviously a public figure. So isn’t it harder? Is it true? Am I remembering this correctly that it’s harder for someone like him to prove libel or slander than it is a private person?

Ben: It is. There is a different standard when you’re out there in the open as a public figure like actors, actresses, politicians. There is a higher burden in terms of proving damage and proving, not proving the elements, but proving the damage component. And so, yes, there’s a higher standard, but again, the importance I think, in this particular case, is not so much the prosecution of the claim, it’s not so much the thing that Johnny Depp was saying that met the elements of the action, it’s actually just the defense that “The Sun” had to defend against the claim.

That’s what’s most important, I think, in this particular case. That’s what most people think is the juicy component to this is that “The Sun,” all they had to do is kick back and say, “Look, all we did was tell the truth. We called you this name, and that characterization of you is supported by the facts.”

Joe: All right. So there you go. It’s really that simple, isn’t it? All right, thank you very much. Ben Barry from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Thanks for coming on, Ben.

Ben: Thank you, Joe.

Joe: Remember, you can call Ben at anytime at 1800LAW1010 or go online to 1800law1010. com. Mel Allen takes over from here. He’s got music from Deep Purple and the Cars coming up next.

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