Amber Heard told a “calculated and manipulative lie” when she claimed she donated her $7m (£5.5m) divorce settlement to charity, Johnny Depp’s lawyers have told the Court of Appeal.
Depp, 57, is trying to overturn a damning High Court libel case ruling that he assaulted his ex-wife and put her in fear for her life, made last year following a high-profile trial.
During a hearing on Thursday, Depp’s lawyers asked for permission to appeal the judgment, which found in favour of The Sun that an April 2018 column in the newspaper calling the actor a “wife beater” was “substantially true”.
The Hollywood star claims he “did not receive a fair trial” and his barrister Andrew Caldecott QC has given details of “fresh evidence” that Heard did not donate her divorce settlement to charity.
After the couple’s break-up in 2016, the 34-year-old actress – who was a witness for The Sun’s publishers NGN Newspapers during the trial – said she would split the $7m between the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
But, Mr Caldecott said the hospital wrote to Depp’s business adviser in 2019 to say Heard had not made “any payments”.
The court heard she gave just $100,000 (£72,000) to the hospital and $450,000 (£322,000) to the ACLU, although she claims she made a further $500,000 (£358,000) donation to the second charity anonymously.
In written submissions, Depp’s legal team said this was a “calculated and manipulative lie, designed to achieve a potent favourable impression from the outset”.
In court on Thursday, Mr Caldecott said Heard’s claim that she had donated the full settlement to charity sent out a “subliminal message” that she wanted Depp to pay but didn’t “want to keep a dime of his money”, which implied “revulsion at the way he treated her physically”.
The claim “tipped the scales against Mr Depp from the very beginning”, he told the court.
In his ruling in November, Mr Justice Nicol said of Heard: “Her donation of the $7m to charity is hardly the act one would expect of a gold-digger.”
Mr Caldecott said that if “the truth” about the charity claim had been known during the trial, it would have affected the judge’s consideration of the actress’s evidence.
Adam Wolanski, representing NGN, said in written submissions that Depp’s “fresh evidence” was said to support “a theory that Ms Heard was a ‘gold-digger'”.
However, he argued that “the evidence is not ‘fresh’ at all, since it could have been obtained with reasonable diligence for (the) trial”.
Mr Wolanski said that the “fresh evidence” only shows that Heard has not yet finished making her pledged payments to the charities and “is of no relevance to the pleaded issues”.
Depp took legal action against NGN in June 2018 over the column in The Sun, by the newspaper’s then executive editor Dan Wootton, which referred to “overwhelming evidence” he attacked Heard.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Nicol concluded that 12 of the 14 alleged incidents of domestic violence relied on by NGN in its defence of the actor’s claim did occur.
But Depp’s legal team claims the judge “failed to examine the competing accounts of each incident, or to explain whether he found them proved and, if so, on what basis”.
At the conclusion of Thursday’s hearing, Lord Justice Underhill – sitting with Lord Justice Dingemans – said the court would give its ruling at a later date.
He said: “We are not going to reach an immediate decision today… we will make it very shortly.”