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Depp libel case on hold as star's legal team are self-isolating

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Actor Johnny Depp and his former wife Amber Heard settled their divorce out of court in
2017, with Ms Heard donating her $7m (€6.6m) settlement to charity

Actor Johnny Depp and his former wife Amber Heard settled their divorce out of court in 2017, with Ms Heard donating her $7m (€6.6m) settlement to charity

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Actor Johnny Depp and his former wife Amber Heard settled their divorce out of court in 2017, with Ms Heard donating her $7m (€6.6m) settlement to charity

Johnny Depp's libel claim against The Sun newspaper over allegations that he was violent toward his ex-wife Amber Heard has been postponed due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Pirates Of The Caribbean star 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".

A two-week trial was due to start in London on Monday, at which the actor, Ms Heard and a number of Hollywood figures would have had to give evidence.

Reluctant

However, Mr Justice Nicol said yesterday that he had "reached the reluctant conclusion" that the trial would have to be adjourned.

The judge said two of Mr Depp's legal representatives have already had to self-isolate, adding: "No one can predict whether others involved in the case, and I do not exclude myself, will either become infected or need to self-isolate."

He said travel restrictions between the UK and France, where Mr Depp (56) is currently, and the US, where Ms Heard lives, were a further factor.

The judge also said it would be more difficult to assess key witnesses over video-link and that having evidence heard in different ways would be "most undesirable".

There would also be problems with witnesses in California giving evidence "in the middle of the night", given the time difference, he said.

He said the Lord Chief Justice had announced that new criminal trials lasting three days or longer would be adjourned, and that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had raised the prospect of further restrictions on the transport network.

The judge said it had been said that libel trials should take place as quickly as possible to either provide vindication to the claimant for damage to their reputation, or to dismiss their claim, but "these are not ordinary times".

Keen

At a hearing on Wednesday, Adam Wolanski QC, for NGN, said his client was "extremely keen" for the trial to go ahead.

The judge said he also received a statement from Ms Heard (33), in which she confirmed "her very strong wish" for the trial to continue and was willing to give evidence over video-link from the US in the early hours of the morning.

Mr Depp's lawyers said he would not be able to give evidence over video-link from his "remote location".

Mr Depp has brought separate libel proceedings against Ms Heard in the US, which are "ongoing".

In May 2016, Ms Heard obtained a restraining order against Mr Depp after accusing him of abuse, which he denied.

The couple settled their divorce out of court in 2017, with Ms Heard donating her $7m (€6.6m) settlement to charity.