Hollywood actor Johnny Depp has lost his High Court libel action against The Sun newspaper over an article which labelled him a "wife beater".

The 57-year-old sued the tabloid's publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor Dan Wootton over the 2018 article, which referred to "overwhelming evidence" that he attacked ex-wife Amber Heard during their relationship.

In a ruling today, Mr Justice Nicol dismissed the 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' star's claim, saying NGN had proved what was in the article to be "substantially true".

The judge said: "The claimant has not succeeded in his action for libel.

"Although he has proved the necessary elements of his cause of action in libel, the defendants have shown that what they published in the meaning which I have held the words to bear was substantially true.

"I have reached these conclusions having examined in detail the 14 incidents on which the defendants rely as well as the overarching considerations which the claimant submitted I should take into account."

A lawyer for Amber Heard said "the decision and judgment are not a surprise".

Meanwhile, Mr Depp's lawyers said they "hope that in contrast to this case, the ongoing libel proceedings in America are equitable".

Jenny Afia of Schillings law firm, who represented Mr Depp, said in a statement that the actor intends to appeal against the UK's court ruling, which she described as "bewildering".

Ms Afia said: "This decision is as perverse as it is bewildering.

"Most troubling is the judge's reliance on the testimony of Amber Heard, and corresponding disregard of the mountain of counter-evidence from police officers, medical practitioners, her own former assistant, other unchallenged witnesses and an array of documentary evidence which completely undermined the allegations, point by point.

"All of this was overlooked. The judgment is so flawed that it would be ridiculous for Mr Depp not to appeal this decision.

"In the meantime, we hope that in contrast to this case, the ongoing libel proceedings in America are equitable, with both parties providing full disclosure rather than one side strategically cherry picking what evidence can and cannot be relied upon." 

The biggest English libel trial of the 21st century garnered worldwide attention as it unfolded over three weeks in July at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Amber Heard

Mr Depp and Ms Heard, 34, attended the 16-day trial, which featured days of high drama, claims of brutal violence and sensational revelations about their tempestuous relationship.

The court heard evidence from both stars, along with friends and relatives of the couple, and several former and current employees.

Mr Depp spent around 20 hours in the witness box over five days, facing intense questioning about his Hollywood lifestyle, his use of drink and drugs, allegations of violence, and his friendships and associations with famous faces including Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and musician Elton John.

As the trial drew to a close, Ms Heard stood outside on the steps of the High Court and said she stood by her evidence and would "place her faith in British justice".

In an April 2018 column in The Sun,  Mr Wootton asked how Harry Potter author JK Rowling could be "genuinely happy" that Mr Depp had been cast in the latest film in the Fantastic Beasts spin-off franchise amid the allegations by Ms Heard.

The actor denied having been violent to Ms Heard, and claimed the article included quotes from alleged victims of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein in order to "finish his career" by linking the allegations against him to the #MeToo and Time's Up movements.

NGN defended the article as true and says Mr Depp was "controlling and verbally and physically abusive towards Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs" between early 2013 and May 2016, when the couple split.

In a statement, Ms Heard's US lawyer Elaine Charlson Bredehoft said the actress's legal team will be presenting more evidence in Mr Depp's libel action in Virginia against Ms Heard over a Washington Post opinion piece.

Ms Bredehoft said: "For those of us present for the London High Court trial, this decision and judgment are not a surprise.

"Very soon, we will be presenting even more voluminous evidence in the US.

"We are committed to obtaining justice for Amber Heard in the US court and defending Ms Heard's right to free speech."