The future of Johnny Depp’s libel case over claims he abused his ex-wife hangs in the balance after a High Court judge ruled the actor breached a court order.
The ruling follows an attempt last week by The Sun’s publisher News Group Newspapers to have the case thrown out.
NGN’s lawyers argued Mr Depp breached a court order by not providing texts relating to his alleged drug use.
On Monday, Mr Justice Nicol ruled in NGN’s favour but decided not to strike out the case “at this stage”.
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”.
The article related to allegations made against Mr Depp by his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, who claimed he was violent towards her during their marriage, which he strenuously denies.
Last week NGN’s legal team argued that Mr Depp was in “serious” breach of a court order because he had not given NGN’s legal team a series of texts sent between himself and his assistant.
It said the messages, sent in late February and early March 2015, demonstrated that Mr Depp 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 argued that the 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 on Monday, Mr Justice Nicol found that Mr Depp had breached an “unless 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 later on Monday morning.
The case could go ahead if such an application is granted.