LONDON: A British news group on Thursday failed in its bid to have a libel case brought by Hollywood actor Johnny Depp thrown out, paving the way for a full court hearing.
Depp, 57, is suing News Group Newspapers (NGN) over an April 2018 article in The Sun tabloid that claimed he had been violent to his former wife, the actress Amber Heard.
He has strenuously denied the claims.
NGN tried to have the case dismissed, arguing Depp was in breach of a court order because he had failed to disclose documents from a separate libel case in the United States.
Judge Andrew Nicol on Monday agreed the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star had failed to hand over details of text messages, which allegedly referred to drugs.
But on Thursday he said he would grant Depp’s application for “relief from sanctions”, which means the trial will go ahead next week.
The text messages were sent in late February and early March 2015, shortly before what Heard, 34, claimed was a “three-day ordeal of physical assaults” in Australia, the judge was told.
Lawyers for the news group have argued the texts were “profoundly damaging to his (Depp’s) case.”
The alleged incident in Australia is one of 14 separate claims of domestic violence between early 2013 and May 2016 that NGN is relying on in its defense.
The judge has previously refused an application by Depp’s legal team to require Heard to disclose evidence, including a secret recording of a conversation with the actor.
He also asked for all communications between Heard and “Rocketman”, a contact saved in her phone who Depp claims is the SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, as well as with actor James Franco.
Lawyer David Sherborne told the court Heard had affairs with Musk and Franco while she was going out with or married to Depp.
He said it was relevant because it has been claimed Depp’s “supposed paranoia and mistaken belief that she was having affairs that caused him to be violent”.
But judge Nicol dismissed the application. “The central issue for the defense of truth is whether Mr Depp assaulted Ms Heard,” he said.
“Even if she had been unfaithful to him, that would be irrelevant on that central issue.”
The case, which was delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak, is due to start next Tuesday at the High Court of England and Wales in central London.
Depp’s former partners, the French singer Vanessa Paradis, and the Hollywood actress Winona Ryder, are due to give evidence.
The actor himself is also expected to attend, as is Heard.
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