Johnny Depp’s libel battle with British tabloid newspaper The Sun has suffered a blow after a High Court judge ruled that he failed to comply with a disclosure order in relation to a series of “drug texts” he sent during a trip to Australia five years ago.
Depp is suing Dan Wootton, the executive editor of The Sun, and the Rupert Murdoch-owned British tabloid’s publisher, News Group Newspapers, for defamation over an article in April 2018 that referred to him as a “wife-beater” following allegations made by his ex-wife Amber Heard. Depp strenuously denies Heard’s claims.
News Group Newspapers requested that the case be thrown out of the High Court last week after Depp failed to disclose text messages showing him apparently trying to obtain drugs while in Australia with Heard in March 2015.
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The text exchanges between Depp and his assistant, Nathan Holmes, took place shortly before Heard claimed she was subjected to a “three-day ordeal of physical assaults” from Depp while he was “under the influence of drink and/or drugs.”
On Monday, Mr Justice Nicol agreed that the messages should have been disclosed by Depp’s legal team. “The Australian drug texts were adverse to the claimant’s pleaded case and/or were supportive of the defendants’ pleaded case,” the judge said. “I agree that the timing is significant. The exchanges with Mr Holmes began shortly before the alleged incidents in Australia.”
Mr Justice Nicol did not, however, strike out the case and has given Depp the opportunity to rescue the situation by applying for “relief against sanctions” ahead of a three-week trial, which is due to take place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London from July 7. A hearing on the sanctions was set for today.
Depp’s attorney David Sherborne argued last week that the texts “did not bear on any of the issues” at play in the libel proceedings. Depp has been open about his past problems with drug addiction, Sherborne said, and the messages do not prove that he succeeded in obtaining narcotics while in Australia.
The texts form part of separate libel proceedings Depp is bringing against Heard in the U.S., and excerpts were published in Mr Justice Nicol’s ruling on Monday. They show Depp making a number of requests of Holmes. “We should have more happy pills!!!??” he said in one text, while in another he added: “May I be ecstatic again???” In a separate message, Depp said: “Need more whitey stuff ASAP brotherman.”