What happened at the hearing when Johnny Depp’s legal team asked for permission to appeal the decision in the libel case he brought against the Sun’s owners because the Sun claimed he was abusive towards Amber Heard?
By John Brace (Editor)
Leonora Brace (Co-Editor)
First publication date: 22nd March 2021, 9:30 (GMT).
Please note that comments are turned off due to the ongoing nature of this case and associated reporting restrictions.
Earlier pieces published in this same case:-
Adam Wolanski QC asked Nicol J at a High Court of Justice hearing (Thursday 25th June 2020) to strike out the Johnny Depp libel claim against The Sun newspaper (and Sun journalist Dan Wootton) alleging a breach of an earlier disclosure order of Nicol J (29th June 2020)
The Hon. Mr Justice Nicol asked to agree to 4 further witnesses (Miss Vanessa Paradis, Miss Winona Ryder, Mr David Killackey and Miss Kate James) in Johnny Depp/The Sun Newspaper libel case (16th May 2020)
The Hon. Mr Justice Nicol agreed privacy order in Johnny Depp/The Sun Newspaper libel trial allowing Amber Heard and another witness to give some evidence during the libel trial in private (with reporting restrictions) (10th April 2020)
This is a report on the permission to appeal hearing held on Thursday 18th March 2021 in the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) (London, England, United Kingdom) before Lord Justice Underhill (Vice President of the Court of Appeal, Civil Division) and Lord Justice Dingemans.
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Ulysses – Tennyson
This was a renewed permission to appeal of this decision  EWHC 2911 (QB) as well as associated applications to adduce further evidence. The public feed of the hearing (which was not the only video feed of the hearing) can be watched by using the links above.
For those like myself (with hearing difficulties) who struggle to follow the way that is filmed, thanks to another journalist Nick Wallis there is a published redacted transcript of the hearing, which if that link doesn’t work is linked to from this page along with other useful documents. The reasons for the redactions arise from a reporting restrictions order (which is in draft form here). Since this piece was published, the the final form of the order has been published. An earlier piece details the rationale when very similar reporting restrictions were imposed if you are interested in the rationale.
Due to the transcript and the links to the videos of the hearing above, as you can make your own mind up, below is an allegory. For further detail you can watch both videos, read the transcript and/or read the documentation. I would normally embed both videos in such a post, however one interpretation of the way the reporting restrictions order is worded prevents that, as this publication falls within the geographical jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal (Civil Division).
For all previous hearings I have written a long and detailed report on what has gone on.
However instead this time I am going to write this story here which is meant to be interpreted metaphorically.
When I was young my father grew rhubarb (Rheum x hybridum) in the garden.
One day my younger brother and his friend from next door said to me that they had eaten some rhubarb leaves and would I like to try the rhubarb leaves?
I said that I didn’t think this was a good idea at all and I was worried about what would happen after eating rhubarb leaves. At first, it was so bizarre, I thought that they were both joking. You can imagine for yourself the reaction at this point and the mise-en-scène.
Rhubarb was one of those words back then I couldn’t pronounce properly (the r sound always comes out as a w) so I took some rhubarb with me and went to my mother to try to patiently explain what had happened (it was always difficult to communicate the urgency of some situations). Even as a child I didn’t really understand why exactly I was doing this. There was a part of myself that got anxious even then.
At the local accident and emergency department there were of course more questions, such as how much of the rhubarb leaves had they eaten and had I had any of the rhubarb leaves. The accident and emergency department had asked a toxicologist over the phone who presumably had answered that it depends on how much is eaten.
Both my brother and his friend were made to throw up (a rather unpleasant experience for them both to go through) and one neither of them were happy with me for.
At primary school I’d been told not to tell stories (by that I mean explicitly told by a dinner lady after being asked who started a fight and answering truthfully). Whistleblowing is still frowned upon even now roughly four decades later, so I felt in doing the above I’d gone against in some way how I’d previously been told how not to behave.
However (a phrase I didn’t know then) the precautionary principle meant I went against this advice.
My point is there’s always a part inside everyone that knows if we tell the truth about what has happened, it may spiral into us getting the blame or the narrative will be warped. Three different people experiencing the same event will have three different versions.
In fact I feel as if the vast majority of the stories I’ve written on this blog over a decade has been variations on, they’ve eaten the rhubarb leaves, someone has blown the whistle on people eating the rhubarb leaves or public shocked by reports of mass rhubarb leave eating – how was this ever allowed to happen?
Human nature being what it is and people’s memory of events are influenced by how the person was feeling at the time.
Yet, if people just share (or worse actually believe themselves) a different version of events to what actually happened, eventually sooner or later reality catches up with them.
The same sibling above also liked playing with matches – which ended up with various adults deciding it was for the best to attempt to keep such tempting and dangerous objects out of the hands of curious children that could end up (though not intentionally) causing harm.
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