Johnny Depp has been ruled in breach of court for failing to disclose “drugs texts” to lawyers at The Sun ahead of his libel case against the paper.
The High Court says the messages, which apparently show the 57-year-old actor trying to obtain drugs in Australia, were “adverse to the claimant’s pleaded case and/or were supportive of the defendants’ pleaded case”.
The Pirates Of The Caribbean actor brought the case over an April 2018 article in the tabloid which referred to him as a “wife beater”, following allegations made by his former wife, actress Amber Heard.
Depp strenuously denies these allegations.
The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, are defending the claim.
Their legal team say Depp was in “serious” breach of a court order for not supplying NGN’s legal team with messages between him and his assistant, Nathan Holmes.
The texts referred to “happy pills” and “whitey stuff”, which Adam Wolanski QC said showed Depp was trying to obtain MDMA and cocaine.
The messages were sent in late February and early March 2015, shortly before an alleged incident in Australia between Depp and Heard, which Heard claims was “a three-day ordeal of physical assaults”.
Mr Wolanski said the messages were “profoundly damaging to [Depp’s] case”.
However, Mr Depp’s barrister, David Sherborne, said the messages were not relevant as they did not relate to the allegations of domestic violence.
He also said Depp had been open about his drug-taking history.
While Mr Justice Nicol found that Depp had breached an “unless order” requiring him to disclose documents from separate and ongoing libel proceedings against Ms Heard in the US, his case has not been automatically struck out.
Mr Depp has brought separate libel proceedings against Ms Heard in the US, which the court has previously heard are “ongoing”.
His barrister argues that NGN’s legal representatives would have been given access to the text messages as they form part of the evidence in this separate case.
Depp’s application for “relief from sanctions” will now be considered.
During a hearing last week, Mr Wolanski said Depp subjected Heard to a “three-day hostage-taking situation” in Australia while he was taking MDMA, also known as ecstasy, and drinking heavily.
The barrister said Heard alleges she was subjected to assaults after she challenged Depp for taking a number of pills and washing them down with red wine.
Depp “expressly denies” that he took the drugs, that Heard found a bag of pills or that the pair had any conversations about drug use during that time, and claims Heard went into “a prolonged and extreme rage” after a discussion of a post-nuptial agreement.
The alleged incident in Australia is one of 14 separate allegations of domestic violence, between early 2013 and May 2016, that NGN relies on in its pleaded defence to Depp’s claim.
The case will be tried at the High Court in London, beginning on 7 July, and is expected to last three weeks.
Both Depp and Heard will travel to London from their respective homes in France and America.
The couple met on the set of 2011 comedy The Rum Diary and married in Los Angeles in February 2015.
In May 2016, Heard obtained a restraining order against Depp after accusing him of abuse, which he denied.
They settled their divorce out of court in 2017, with Heard donating her $7m (£5.5m) settlement to charity.
Depp’s former partners, Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder are also expected to give evidence. Both have previously given witness statements saying Depp was “never violent” towards them.