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Judge: Johnny Depp’s ex-wife can sit in on evidence

© AP Photo/Joel RyanJohnny Depp and Amber Heard (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

Johnny Depp’s lawyers have failed in a bid to stop his ex-wife Amber Heard attending his High Court libel action against The Sun until she is called to give evidence at the trial.

The 57-year-old actor is suing the tabloid’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article which referred to Mr Depp as a “wife beater”.

The article related to allegations made against Mr Depp by actress Ms Heard, 34, that he was violent towards her during their marriage – claims he strenuously denies.

The high-profile trial is due to start on Tuesday after a last-ditch attempt to throw the case out of court by NGN’s legal team was refused last week.

The Hollywood star’s lawyers applied on Friday for Ms Heard to be excluded from the trial until she gave evidence, arguing that her evidence would be more reliable if she was not present in court when Mr Depp was being cross-examined.

But trial judge Mr Justice Nicol has refused the application, saying that excluding her from the hearing “would inhibit the defendants in the conduct of their defence”.

The judge noted that it was NGN and Mr Wootton – not Ms Heard – who was defending the claim, but said that “they rely heavily on the information which Ms Heard can provide”.

Mr Justice Nicol added: “She (Ms Heard) will not be in a position to give instructions to (NGN’s lawyers), but she can provide information on which the defendants may choose to act.”

The couple, who met on the set of 2011 comedy The Rum Diary, settled their divorce out of court in 2017, with Ms Heard donating her $7 million settlement to charity.