Johnny Depp’s libel case over newspaper claims he abused his ex-wife is to go ahead in court, after a ruling by the judge involved in the case.
Mr Justice Nicol’s High Court ruling said: “I am not persuaded that the trial of the claim would be unfair.”
Mr Depp is suing NGN and The Sun’s executive editor Dan Wootton over an April 2018 article that referred to him as a “wife beater”.
Last month Justice Nicol ruled the actor had breached a court order.
It followed an attempt by The Sun’s publisher News Group Newspapers to have the case thrown out.
NGN’s lawyers had said Mr Depp breached the court order by not providing text messages relating to his alleged drug use.
On Thursday, the judge said he would grant Mr Depp “relief from sanctions” over the breach of the order to disclose a text message exchange between himself and his assistant, which contained references to drugs.
But Mr Justice Nicol said his decision was conditional on Mr Depp agreeing not to seek sanctions against his ex-wife Amber Heard for allegedly breaching another court order, made during separate libel proceedings in the US, by providing The Sun’s legal team with evidence.
‘Trial is imminent’
The judge’s legal ruling said:”Ms Heard has provided assistance to the defendants and has done so despite whatever may have been said by the claimant’s US lawyers. I agree that it is important that she is not subjected to sanctions in another jurisdiction for having done so.”
The Sun’s original article related to allegations made against Mr Depp by Ms Heard, who claimed he was violent towards her during their marriage, which he strenuously denies.
The judge ruled: “The claim is far advanced and the trial is imminent. Despite the breach which I have found… I am not persuaded that the trial of the claim would be unfair.”
Last week, NGN’s legal team argued that Mr Depp’s text messages, sent in late February and early March 2015, demonstrated he was trying to get hold of drugs while staying in Australia with Ms Heard, during which time an incident of domestic abuse is alleged to have occurred.
Mr Depp’s barrister had said the text messages were not relevant as they did not relate to the allegations of domestic violence that The Sun made reference to in an article headlined “Gone Potty – How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”
In his ruling in June, Mr Justice Nicol found that Mr Depp had breached an order requiring him to disclose documents from separate libel proceedings against Ms Heard in the US.
The judge said: “The Australian drug texts were adverse to the claimant’s pleaded case and/or were supportive of the defendants’ pleaded case.”
But the judge did not make a declaration that Mr Depp’s case was automatically struck out and said the actor’s application for “relief from sanctions” would be heard.
Depp, the 57-year-old star of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, has been Oscar and Bafta-nominated and won a Golden Globe in 2008 for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. He married Aquaman and The Danish Girl actress Amber Heard, 34, in February 2015, but she filed for divorce after 15 months.