Divorced: Amber Heard’s split from Jonny Depp is still having ramifications for the actors. Photo: WILL OLIVER/ AAP PHOTOS

From the desk of Roland Rocchiccioli – 29 November

November 29, 2020 BY

We have two things in this life which we truly own, unequivocally: our name, and our reputation. Both are fragile and should be guarded, assiduously.

THE willingness of some to play fast and loose with someone else’s character is disturbing. In modern parlance: dishing the dirt! Always, they would rather believe the worst. Social media, in its multifarious and treacherous manifestations, provides everyone with an unfiltered megaphone to the word, and an unimpeded path to slanderous and libellous pursuits, with seeming impunity. Once the poisonous invective is released into the ether, there is no redress. The victim is forced to live with the aftermath, forever. Too often, the perpetrator is left to roam free, seeking-out other unsuspecting victims for their vile smears.

As a collective, we are predisposed to the serious misjudgement that because someone is rich and famous, it follows, ipso facto, they are well behaved, properly educated, and of excellent character.

That, sadly, is not the reality. One is directly related to luck, the other to background and opportunity. We live in an age when success is measured, and social position is determined, by an accumulation of wealth.

Surprisingly, the film actor, Johnny Depp, has been asked to step-aside from his continuing role in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise of movies, written by JK Rowling. The dismissal decision was taken after losing a libel case against the British newspaper, The Sun, which labelled him “wife-beater”.

Interestingly, Judge Nicol expressly acknowledged that Depp had proved his cause of action: that his reputation had been damaged; however, under United Kingdom defamation law, if a defendant proves the published words are “substantially true”, they will have a complete defence, and cannot be successfully sued, regardless of the gravity of the allegations.

On balancing his position, clearly Depp considered the trial was the lesser of two evils when set against the potential reputational damage that the words “wife-beater” would cause to his future.

Mr Depp, and his former wife, Amber Heard, have been involved in an acrimonious and distasteful public divorce. Without knowing the protagonists, it is impossible to decide which of the two is telling the truth, which, as we know, is, to a greater or lesser extent, in the eye of the beholder. It is invariably a victim of any personal dispute. He said, she said!

Criminal domestic assault is a scourge. For those who survive the ordeal, the recovery is slow, and never complete. Its insidious wake envelopes its victims at the most unsuspecting moment. A sound, a smell, or a harmless phrase heard in the street or a film, is enough to wake the demons. The dreadfulness intensifies with time. Nightmares become more regular, and more ghastly, both for the direct victim and those caught on the periphery of the criminality.

Disturbingly, Depp may, as a consequence of the widely differing arguments presented in court, be denied the opportunity to continue in his chosen profession. The aggregate seems decidedly imbalanced.

The argument is not about condoning criminal domestic assault, but about seeking truth and fairness, and the administration of justice. From the evidence presented in court, it would seem that both Depp and Heard are the most ghastly people. You would not want either of them at your wedding.

Their behaviour, albeit private, deserves the full weight of public opprobrium; however, the Me Too movement notwithstanding, I am not certain that Depp deserves to be cast-out into the wilderness for all eternity. It is unfair to punish one and not the other. The behaviour of both is offensive. Heard should be dropped from the Aquaman 2 franchise.

Only Depp and Heard know the truth, and since the accusations are so disparate one of them is, by definition, prevaricating. It is a recognised fact: revenge knows no bounds when the opportunity for devastating retaliation presents.

While prurience may be irresistible, we need to exercise caution, always, when it comes to meddling with other people’s lives, and their livelihoods.

Roland can be heard on RADIO 3BA, every Monday morning, 10.45 and contacted via [email protected].