Johnny Depp’s libel case against British newspaper The Sun will go to trial, a U.K. High Court judge ruled on Thursday.
The Pirates of the Caribbean star is suing the tabloid’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article which referred to him as a “wife-beater” in relation to domestic violence allegations made by his ex-wife Amber Heard, which Depp has repeatedly denied.
Although the presiding judge Mr Justice Nicol’s High Court previously ruled that Depp had breached a court order requiring him to disclose all documents from a parallel U.S. case against Heard, he has now ruled the trial can go ahead, reports the BBC.
“I am not persuaded that the trial of the claim would be unfair,” Nicol said, granting Depp “relief from sanctions” over the breach of the order to disclose text messages to his assistant containing references to obtaining drugs.
The judge said his decision was conditional on the actor not seeking sanctions against Heard for allegedly breaching another court order, made during the U.S. libel proceedings by providing The Sun’s legal team with evidence.
“Subject to the claimant giving the undertaking regarding not seeking sanctions against Ms Heard for any breach of the Virginia protective order because of such assistance as she has already or may in the course of this litigation give to the defendants, I will grant the claimant relief against sanctions,” he ruled.
NGN’s legal team had argued the texts, sent in late February and early March 2015, showed he was trying to get drugs while in Australia with Heard, during which time an incident of domestic abuse is alleged to have taken place. They claimed the breach jeopardised the prospect of a fair trial. However, Depp’s lawyers argued he had been open about his past battles with drug and alcohol problems in other evidence.
The trial is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, with Depp’s exes Winona Ryder and Vanessa Paradis expected to give evidence in Depp’s defence.
Depp and Heard split in 2016, and finalised their divorce the following year, with Heard receiving $7 million (£5.6 million) in a settlement.