On 18 March 2021 two Court of Appeal judges will hear an oral application for permission to appeal in the case of Johnny Depp v News Group Newspapers.  The hearing will be live streamed on this YouTube channel from 10.30am.

Underhill and Dingemans LJJ will hear the application for permission to appeal against the judgment of Nicol J handed down on 2 November 2020 ([2020] EWHC 2911 (QB)) in Court 71 at the Royal Courts of Justice.

After a trial lasting 16 days, Nicol J held that the Defendants had proved that the defamatory allegations they published about the Claimant acting violently towards his ex-wife Amber Heard were substantially true.  After a detailed analysis of the evidence in relation to each of the alleged incidents relied upon by the Defendants, he concluded that:

“I have found that the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms Heard by Mr Depp been proved to the civil standard (bearing in mind what has been said about the evidence necessary to satisfy that standard when serious allegations are in issue). The exceptions are Incidents 6, 11 and the additional confidential allegation regarding Hicksville. I do not regard the Defendants’ inability to make good these allegations as of importance in determining whether they have established the substantial truth of the words that they published in the meanings which I have held those words to bear.” [575]

We had a case comment by Kirsten Sjøvoll, and pieces about the judgment by Alexandros Antoniou and Iain Wilson and Thomas Otter.  We also had a post about the media reaction to the decision.

Mr Depp’s lawyers are asking the Court of Appeal to set the judgment aside and order a new trial focussing on the Judge’s treatment of the evidence of Ms Heard.  They argue that the judgment is “manifestly unsafe” and that the Judge

“failed to undertake any, or an adequate analysis, of Ms Heard’s shifting account, despite the importance of consistency as a consideration of a witness’s testimony”.

It is argued that the Judge

“concluded that [Mr Depp] .. was guilty of serious physical assaults without taking account of or even acknowledging that Ms Heard had been untruthful in her evidence, without testing her account against the documentary evidence and the evidence of other witnesses, and without making any findings that he disbelieved those witnesses”.

The application for permission to appeal is listed for one day.  It is likely that judgment will be reserved.