Bishop & Sewell

Johnny Depp’s highly publicised libel case against The Sun newspaper in July came to an end earlier this week, comments Louise Barretto, Head of our Family law team, with the Judge, Mr Justice Nichol ruling that much of what was said in their article was “substantially true” and that Mr Depp had on certain occasions put Ms Heard in “fear for her life”.

Not surprisingly, having lost, Mr Depp’s lawyer has called the ruling “perverse” and said the Hollywood actor intends to appeal. In the face of the evidence, much of it delivered by Depp himself who was in the witness box for 20 hours, according to the BBC, Ms Heard’s lawyer, Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, said the judgement was “not a surprise.”

In one of those incidents, in Australia in 2015, Mr Depp was allegedly physically and verbally abusive towards her while drinking heavily and taking drugs. Mr Depp accused Ms Heard of severing his finger, but the judge said he did not accept Ms Heard was responsible.

As a family lawyer I am drawn to the judge’s comments highlighting Mr Depp’s behaviour: “Taking all the evidence together, I accept that she was the victim of sustained and multiple assaults by Mr Depp in Australia,” said Mr Justice Nicol.

“It is a sign of the depth of his rage that he admitted scrawling graffiti in blood from his injured finger and then, when that was insufficient, dipping his badly injured finger in paint and continuing to write messages and other things.

“I accept her evidence of the nature of the assaults he committed against her. They must have been terrifying.”

Domestic violence need not be physical. Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse and is often difficult to recognise. Part of the problem with trying to define accurately what constitutes emotional abuse is undoubtedly because there is a subjective element to it.

Objectively, one party may be experiencing emotional abuse if he or she is:

  • often left humiliated by something their partner has said or done
  • unable to express disagreement with their partner without being subjected to criticism and ridicule
  • constantly being told by their partner that they are worthless or inadequate
  • made to feel guilty for no good reason
  • blamed for everything going wrong regardless of the circumstances

In this case a spokesperson for the Sun said: “Domestic abuse victims must never be silenced and we thank the judge for his careful consideration and thank Amber Heard for her courage in giving evidence to the court.”

Charity Women’s Aid said everyone who experiences domestic abuse “deserves to be listened to and believed”.

“This also applies to survivors who do not fit the image of the ‘perfect’ victim – and regardless of the high profile of the alleged abuser. There is no excuse for domestic abuse.”

From my experience the primary difficulty experienced by clients who have suffered emotional abuse at the hands of their partner, is deciding at what point “enough is enough”. Many clients have endured this kind of behaviour for years, and their reasons for doing so are often perfectly understandable. Some of these may be: they believe this is “normal” behaviour, or they think it will improve; they want to do the best for their children or because they are fearful of what the consequences of change might be.


Our Family lawyers have the knowledge and experience to guide you through these challenging times and have rankings in the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners for their expertise.

If you need some advice and support, please get in touch via or call us direct on +44(0)20 7091 2869. We are here for you.

The above is accurate as at 10 November 2020. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.

Category: News | Date: 3rd Nov 2020

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