The judgment dismissing Johnny Depp’s libel claim against the Sun on Monday 2 November 2020 was, unsurprisingly, celebrated across the media but his army of fans appear not to have lost the faith.
The victorious defendant newspaper, the Sun, led in the way in its coverage with a flurry of stories on the day of the judgment, including
- STAR SHAMED Johnny Depp verdict: Actor beat ex-wife Amber Heard 12 TIMES, judge rules as The Sun wins libel case trial
- TIMELINE OF TERROR Johnny Depp libel case verdict – The 12 times actor beat ex-wife Amber Heard
- BEAMING AMBER Amber Heard smiles for cameras hours before Johnny Depp wife-beater libel case verdict
The newspaper was, understandably, delighted by the news that Mr Depp was “axed from Fantastic Beasts”.
But, as the Guardian noted at other Fleet Street titles there appeared to be admiration that News Group Newspapers had fought the case to the end.
The week has also been a treat for the admirers of the indefatigable Mark Stephens. The veteran media lawyer was quoted in the Sun telling the defendant newspaper what it wanted to hear: that an appeal will be “hopeless and hapless”. The Guardian had Mr Stephens condemning “gendered tropes”. Sputnik Turkey had the headline “Attorney Mark Stephens: Johnny Depp has come to the end of his Hollywood career”. However, whilst speaking the BBC Mr Stephens glimpsed the faint hope of redemption, saying that the only way Mr Depp could find forgiveness in Hollywood was to “admit his problems and get treatment”
There were a few more detailed analyses of the case:
- The BBC had a piece “Inside the Johnny Depp court case”.
- The Independent had “Domestic violence on the world stage – how the Johnny Depp and Sun libel case unfolded”
- Legal Cheek had “A critical analysis of the Johnny Depp Libel Trial”.
We had two Inforrm comments
- The Johnny Depp libel trial explained – Alexandros Antoniou
- Case Comment, Depp v News Group Newspapers, Libel claim locked down – Kirsten Sjøvoll
There was a 5RB case note – which unusually contained no comment on the decision.
Mr Depp’s admirers do not seem to be convinced by the decision. The Daily Mail reported that Johnny Depp’s fans have launched a “Twitter war” against Amber Heard subjecting her to serious online abuse.
A similar campaign of online abuse against Mr Justice Nicol, the judge who ruled against Mr Depp, is reported in the Times. In a disturbing development, a petition entitled Justice Nicol needs to be fired! Justice for Male DA Survivors! on Change.org has attracted more than 4,000 signatures. It appears, however, that none of Mr Depp’s admirers have, as yet, sought to analyse the judgment or to suggest reasons why the Judge might be mistaken (apart from the fact he disagreed with Mr Depp).
The only communication by or on behalf of Mr Depp appears to be an Instagram post in which he told his supporters that he had been asked to resign by Warner Bros from his role in Fantastic Beasts and he has “respected and agreed to that request”. He went on to say
“The surreal judgment of the court in the UK will not change my right to tell the truth and I confirm that I plan to appeal.
My resolve remains strong and I intend to prove that the allegations against me are false”.
We have, perhaps, not heard the last of Depp v News Group Newspapers.
The decision against Mr Depp was, incidentally, one of four defeats for claimants in defamation cases in four days (the others being Haji-Ioannou v Telegraph Media Group Ltd  EWHC 2922 (QB), Gubarev v Orbis Business Intelligence Ltd & Anor  EWHC 2912 and Rayner v Seabourne-Hawkins  EWHC 2895 (QB)). The already fading reputation of England as the “claimant friendly libel capital of the world” has suffered what may be a fatal blow.