June 2019 | Les Stubbs

Family violence is a very serious issue in Australia, and is treated as such in family law matters. But the making of false allegations is also treated seriously. The issue of family violence should not be demeaned or degraded by a false allegation. There is no more important issue than to protect the welfare and safety of parents and children. If a false allegation is made, it may be dealt with by a court, perhaps one outside the family law court system, with serious consequences ensuing. The interconnectedness of family violence and false/defamatory allegations was recently played out in a high profile 2016 case involving domestic abuse charges against Johnny Depp.

According to the testimony of his wife, Amber Heard, Depp had hit her (with photos to support this) and at one point, she took a video of him flinging a wine glass in a fit of rage. She said that kind of behaviour would happen when Depp lost his temper and he would lash out at her, verbally and physically.

Naturally, many rallied behind Heard and condemned Depp’s actions, despite claims from his ex-wife, Vanessa Paradis, that he would never hurt a woman. Heard was also called a gold-digger and a liar by others amongst his supporters.

It’s been almost three years since their divorce was settled in court. But it has now flared up again in 2019. Why? Because Depp has filed a $50 million defamation case against Heard, presenting evidence he was allegedly on the receiving end of the abuse.

Heard talked about the domestic abuse in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed, which prompted Depp’s defamation lawsuit against her. The op-ed depended on the central premise that “Ms. Heard was a domestic abuse victim and that Mr. Depp perpetrated domestic violence against her”, as the complaint reads. It also states that all of Heard’s claims are “categorically and demonstrably false” as supported by testimonies from two police officers, third-party witnesses and 87 newly-obtained surveillance footage films that allegedly refute her.

The complaint notes that Heard was previously arrested for “violent domestic abuse and having confessed under oath to a series of violent attacks on Mr. Depp.” It also lists incidents of Heard’s alleged abuse of Depp since the start of their marriage, including punching and kicking and staging her attacks. It is alleged she staged all of this to advance her career.

In response to the complaint, Heard has submitted a new court filing which details horrific allegations of abuse she endured from the actor and asking the court to dismiss Depp’s lawsuit.

Her op-ed for the Washington Post described her recollections of her own claimed experiences with abuse and described the backlash she experienced after she spoke out, including death threats and a lost movie role. Depp claims too he lost the lucrative role as Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films as a result of the allegations.

Depp has repeatedly denied Heard’s allegations against him. While Heard did not name Depp in the op-ed, he claims it was clear she was talking about him. He has called her claims “an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Ms. Heard and advance her career.”

Since their divorce, Heard has become an outspoken advocate for survivors of domestic abuse. She received $7 million in her divorce settlement with Depp, which she pledged to divide equally between organizations established to prevent violence against women, and the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles.

Where does the truth lie? We do not know as the case has not been determined, and it will be a most difficult trial for any judge to determine. If it does emerge that Heard lied about the abuse, as a leading US commentator has written, “[she’s] the exception not the rule (as most) domestic violence reports are not fabricated. (This) is a fact.”

If you have a concern for your safety and/or the safety of your children, contact us immediately for legal advice about your protection.