Johnny Depp libel case appeal bid turned down

Johnny Depp has been refused permission to appeal against a High Court ruling which concluded that he assaulted his ex-wife Amber Heard.

The Pirates Of The Caribbean actor sued the publisher of the Sun, News Group Newspapers (NGN), for libel over a 2018 article labelling him a “wife beater”.

The judge who dismissed Mr Depp’s claim this month said an appeal did not have a “reasonable prospect of success”.

But he gave him until 7 December to apply directly to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Justice Nicol’s ruling on the application to overturn his judgement came last week – and was made public on Wednesday.

He also ordered the actor to make an initial payment to NGN of almost £630,000 for its legal fees.

Mr Depp and Ms Heard both gave evidence during the 16-day case at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in July.

The allegations spanned the period between 2013 and 2016, when the couple’s relationship ended.

Mr Depp, 57, denied the claims and his lawyer called the judge’s ruling “perverse” and announced the actor intended to appeal.

Mr Depp sued the Sun after a column by its executive editor Dan Wootton referred to “overwhelming evidence” that the actor attacked Ms Heard, 34, during their relationship.

Mr Justice Nicol ruled the newspaper had proved what was in the article to be “substantially true”. He found that 12 of the 14 alleged incidents outlined had occurred.

The judge highlighted three incidents where he said Mr Depp had put Ms Heard in “fear for her life”.

In one of those incidents, in Australia in 2015, Mr Depp was allegedly physically and verbally abusive towards her while drinking heavily and taking drugs. Mr Depp accused Ms Heard of severing his finger, but the judge said he did not accept Ms Heard was responsible.

The judge rejected a “recurring theme” in Mr Depp’s evidence “that Ms Heard had constructed a hoax and that she had done this as an ‘insurance policy’,” and that she was a “gold-digger”.

In the April 2018 column, the Sun asked how author JK Rowling could be “genuinely happy” that Mr Depp had been cast in the latest film in the Fantastic Beasts franchise she had written, amid allegations made by Ms Heard.

After losing the case, Mr Depp said he had left the franchise, adding he had been “asked to resign” from his role as Gellert Grindelwald and had “respected that and agreed to that request”.

Vigil for fishermen onboard sunken trawler

A two-minute silence has been held for the crew of a trawler that capsized off the Sussex coast.

Hundreds gathered at Newhaven lifeboat station, which had joined the search for three fishermen who were onboard the Joanna C when it sank on Saturday.

The body of 26-year-old Adam Harper, from Brixham, Devon, was found by divers in the wreckage on Monday.

Robert Morley, 38, from Pembrokeshire, is still missing. Skipper Dave Bickerstaff was rescued on Saturday.

Rev Martin Miller, from St Michael’s Church in Newhaven, said Mr Morley’s parents, who joined the vigil, wanted to “say a big thank you to [Mr Bickerstaff] for his heroic efforts to do what he could to save them”.

He was found clinging to a buoy after spending up to two and half hours in the water.

Rev Miller led a round of applause for the emergency services and fellow fishermen who “without any thought for themselves searched on massively long shifts”.

Alex, a fisherman who had worked with the pair, addressed the crowd through a microphone.

“We all know what we do, we know the risks, but we still love it and we still do it,” he said. “If Rob and Adam were still here they’d be saying the same.”

He said he would “never ever forget” the time he had spent at sea with them, adding: “They will live on forever in all of us.”

The Newhaven lifeboat crew who rescued Mr Bickerstaff joined the vigil, and a nearby lookout tower was “floodlit to respect the lost fishermen, one of whom disliked the dark,” the National Coastwatch Institution said.

An online fundraising campaign to support the families has received more than £32,000 in donations.

Organiser Tony Rowe said he was “overwhelmed” by the response to the campaign from across the world.

Over-55s growing less satisfied with the BBC, Ofcom says

Satisfaction with the BBC among its most loyal audiences is showing “signs of waning” for the first time, broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has said.

Older and more affluent people have traditionally used and valued the broadcaster the most.

But Ofcom said: “For the first time, satisfaction levels among audiences who typically use the BBC the most… are beginning to show signs of waning.”

That was especially true of the over-55s, according to Ofcom.

“Older audiences in particular are starting to show signs of decreasing satisfaction,” the watchdog’s third annual report into the BBC said. But over-55s are still “better served than other groups”, it added.

The report also said the corporation was “still struggling” to reach younger audiences.

“Average time spent with the BBC each week [by young audiences] now stands at just less than an hour a day,” it found.

Young people, the report continued, tend to use BBC iPlayer “when they know what they want to watch, rather than as a destination to browse for new content”.

The report said the BBC’s “overall reach is still very high, with almost nine in 10 adults consuming its content on a weekly basis”.

Yet overall audiences are “in gradual decline”, it said, and the corporation’s reach among adults has fallen by 5%, from 92% to 87%, over the past three years.

“If audiences do not consider the BBC a core part of their viewing, they may not see value in the licence fee,” it suggested.

The report included the BBC’s coverage of Kylie Minogue’s 2019 Glastonbury set and the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special among its highlights from the year.

It covered the period April 2019 to March 2020, before means testing of the TV licence for over-75s began in August.

The BBC said it welcomed Ofcom’s report and its assertion that “audiences value the BBC particularly for distinctive, high-quality, creative programmes, educational content and trusted and accurate news”.

The corporation’s statement added: “We’re committed to delivering great value and meeting the challenges of a fast-changing media landscape.”

Ofcom has also published its annual study of diversity in the TV and radio industry, which calls on the sector to broaden the geographic and social make-up of its workforce.

Paul Lamb: Paralysed Leeds man urges government inquiry

A paralysed former builder has called for an inquiry into assisted dying after losing the latest in a series of bids to challenge the law on the issue.

Paul Lamb, 65, from Leeds, said he was “devastated” after the Court of Appeal refused him permission to bring a legal challenge over assisted dying.

He argued the current law, which bans assisted suicide, is discriminatory and breaches his human rights.

He said he felt “powerless” and urged the government to launch an inquiry.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said any change in the law would have to be considered by MPs.

In an open letter to Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Mr Lamb said he was writing “to urge you to take notice of this decision and launch an inquiry into assisted dying, and ask if you might meet with me to discuss this important matter”.

Mr Lamb, who requires round-the-clock care after being severely injured in a car accident in 1990, has no function below his neck, apart from limited movement in his right arm.

Mr Lamb, who previously lost a right-to-die case in the Supreme Court in 2014, asked the Court of Appeal to allow a fresh challenge of the law on assisted dying to go ahead after being refused permission by the High Court in December last year.

But it has now emerged the bid was rejected by a Court of Appeal judge in May this year.

Humanists UK, which has been supporting Mr Lamb in his case, said it had delayed announcing the outcome at the request of Mr Lamb’s carers and medical staff as he had been taken to hospital shortly after the case was refused permission.

In a statement, Mr Lamb said: “I am devastated by this decision, and the powerless position it has left me in.

“Without the option of a dignified death, I now have no choice if my pain ever becomes unbearable, other than the horrifying prospect I was most afraid of from the start – slowly starving myself to death.

“I cannot understand, in a civilised society like ours, why I should be forced to suffer when millions of people around the world already have the choice I asked for.”

He said the court’s decision “condemns me to a life of constant pain, and removes the small part of my life that I could still have some say over – how I want to die”.

Humanists UK’s chief executive Andrew Copson said: “We are disappointed that the courts have yet again failed to challenge one of the most unethical laws in our country.

“It is time for MPs to confront the compelling evidence favouring assisted dying, and for the government to help by issuing a long-overdue inquiry.”

The MoJ said it had “deep sympathy” for Mr Lamb, but “any change to the law in an area of such sensitivity and importance must be for individual MPs to consider rather than a decision for government”.

Concorde pilot killed wife in act of compassion

A former Concorde pilot unlawfully killed his wife, who had dementia, before taking his own life in an act of compassion, a coroner has said.

Tony Meadows, 84, and his wife Paula, 85, were found dead at their home near Bucklebury, Berkshire, in April 2019.

Mr Meadows, who had once piloted for the Queen, had become depressed caring for his deteriorating wife, an inquest at Reading Coroner’s Court heard.

Assistant coroner Ian Wade QC called the case “desperately sad”.

The inquest heard that Mrs Meadows had been in “absolute agony” due to back pain in the weeks running up to the couple’s bodies being discovered at their home in Pot Kiln Lane on 2 April.

Their daughter Nicola Meadows said in a statement read in court that Mr Meadows was “quite depressed” when she last saw her parents.

She said: “In my opinion daddy killed mummy because her life was dreadful… I don’ think he wanted to live without her.

“They were married for 61 years and loved each other.”

The inquest heard that Mr Meadows, a father-of-three, had been planning the death of his wife and himself over a number of days.

A post-mortem examination by a Home Office pathologist found the pair died due to asphyxiation.

Giving his conclusion Mr Wade said Mr Meadows committed suicide and Mrs Meadows died after being unlawfully killed by her husband.

He said: “I find she died as a result of the deliberate intervention by her adoring and concerned husband Tony.

“That he decided that he would go against nature and he took informed deliberate steps to end his wife’s life – I’m quite sure out of compassion…

“I stress it is an act of love in my view and not a malignant act.”

Mr Meadows was one of a small number of Concorde pilots, who had flown the plane for 14 years. He was part of the crew during Concorde’s first passenger flight from Heathrow to New York in 1977.

He said one of the highlights of his career was flying the Queen to Bahrain in 1979.

Eton teacher Matthew Mowbray guilty of sexually assaulting pupils

A former Eton College teacher has been convicted of sexually assaulting pupils during “nocturnal” visits to their bedrooms.

Matthew Mowbray, 49, went into boys’ rooms under the guise of discussing schoolwork, Reading Crown Court heard.

He was found guilty of eight counts of sexual activity with a child and not guilty of one against a girl.

The defendant previously admitted six counts of making indecent images of children and one of voyeurism.

Mowbray, of Locks Heath, Southampton, was dismissed from his role at the boys’ boarding school, near Windsor, Berkshire, following his arrest.

His trial heard he would pay regular “nocturnal visits” to boys “for his own sexual gratification”.

One complainant said Mowbray groped his bottom with a “forceful squeeze”, while another pupil said he “felt really uncomfortable and just froze” when he was sexually touched by the geography teacher.

Following his conviction, Marc Thompson, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Mowbray’s victims described feeling uncomfortable with his nocturnal visits to their rooms.

“Whilst not overtly sexual acts, they knew the touching was wrong, but were at a loss to know what to do.

“Mowbray’s intentions became clear with the discovery of the indecent images on his computer, it was through this evidence we were able to prove to the jury that the manner in which he touched the boys was intended to satisfy his own sexual desires.”

Mowbray did not give evidence in his trial. He will be sentenced at Reading Crown Court at a later date.

He was granted bail on the condition he does not contact parents or staff from Eton College, must not enter Eton or the surrounding area, and must not have unsupervised contact with children who are under the age of 16.

Beatles book by Craig Brown wins £50k Baillie Gifford non-fiction prize

Craig Brown’s book One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time has won a leading non-fiction award, the Baillie Gifford Prize, whose judges said it had “reinvented the art of biography”.

The book tells the history of the Fab Four through a mixture of diaries, letters, interviews and charts.

The annual £50,000 award is given to the UK’s best non-fiction work.

Martha Kearney, the chair of the judges, described the book as “a highly original take on familiar territory”.

It amounted to “a joyous, irreverent, insightful celebration of the Beatles”, the broadcaster said.

“The idea of there being a fresh book about the Beatles is quite hard to imagine as there is so much written about them – but it is such an original book,” she added.

Author and journalist Brown has written 18 books and has penned the parodic diary column in Private Eye magazine for 30 years.

The rest of the shortlist was:

British-Australian lecturer released by Iran

A British-Australian academic serving a 10-year sentence in Iran for espionage has been freed in exchange for three jailed Iranians, Iranian media say.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer at Melbourne University, had been detained in Iran since September 2018.

She was tried in secret and strongly denied all the charges against her.

According to Iranian state media, she was exchanged for an Iranian businessman and two Iranian citizens “who had been detained abroad”.

They have not yet been named.

News of the exchange came on Wednesday in a statement on the website of the Young Journalist Club, a news website affiliated to state television in Iran.

“An Iranian businessman and two Iranian citizens who were detained abroad on baseless charges were exchanged for a dual national spy named Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who worked for the Zionist regime,” it said.

Video purporting to show the exchange was published by state broadcaster IRIB news and the Tasnim website.

Dr Moore-Gilbert, a Cambridge-educated academic, had been travelling on an Australian passport when she was detained at Tehran airport in 2018 as she tried to leave following a conference.

In letters smuggled out of Tehran’s Evin prison earlier this year, the lecturer said she had “never been a spy” and feared for her mental health. She said she had rejected an offer from Iran to become a spy.

“I am not a spy. I have never been a spy, and I have no interest to work for a spying organisation in any country.”

Concerns for her wellbeing escalated in August when news emerged that she had been transferred to Qarchak, a notorious prison in the desert.

She was visited shortly afterwards by Australia’s ambassador to Iran, Lyndall Sachs, who reported that she was “well”.

Before being moved to Qarchak, Dr Moore-Gilbert had spent almost two years sleeping on the floor of a cell at Evin prison, according to a friend.

She had been in solitary confinement and on several hunger strikes, and was said to have been beaten for trying to comfort new prisoners.

Spending Review: Millions face cut in value of workplace pensions

Millions of retirees will see the future value of their pension cut owing to a planned change in the way payments are calculated from 2030.

Many of those with so-called defined benefit workplace pensions see their pension payments increase each year in line with the rising cost of living.

The way this annual rise is calculated is expected to become less generous from February 2030.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak ruled out an earlier change.

Women and new retirees will be hardest hit by the changes which were revealed in documents released alongside the chancellor’s Spending Review, but not mentioned in Mr Sunak’s speech.

Over time, the value of their pensions could be thousands of pounds less than they might have expected.

The proposed changes do not affect the state pension.

Investors – often pension funds – in index-linked gilts (government debt sometimes linked to RPI inflation) would have been hit harder had the change been made earlier.

From 2030, there could be some benefit to commuters and those paying back student loans owing to the changes.

Ecclestone burglary trial: Accused went on Harrods spending spree

A mother and son accused of helping a burglary ring steal property worth £26m from celebrities went on a spending spree, a court has heard.

Maria Mester, 47, and Emil Bogdan Savastru, 30, opened accounts at the luxury department store days after a raid on Tamara Ecclestone’s mansion.

In three hours they spent more than £3,000 in cash on high-end items, Isleworth Crown Court heard.

Both deny conspiracy to burgle and money laundering charges.

The court previously heard they were part of a “support cast” in the plot, which also targeted the homes of Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and former Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

A group of three alleged burglars – who cannot be named for legal reasons – is said to have carried out the string of raids between 1 and 13 December last year.

On 17 December, four days after Ms Ecclestone’s home was burgled, Mr Savastru opened his Harrods account and spent £580 on Christian Dior cosmetics, the court heard.

His mother splashed out more than £1,000 on Louis Vuitton and Loro Plana menswear, £810 on Hermes goods and £635 on designer shoes.

Jurors have been told Ms Mester was wearing Ms Ecclestone’s £3,000 rose gold earrings when she was arrested at Stansted Airport.

Prosecutor Paul Jarvis told the court Ms Ecclestone’s husband Jay Rutland was shown an image from Ms Mester’s Facebook page which showed her wearing the F1 heiress’ jewellery.

He told officers he “immediately recognised” the “unique pieces” as items stolen in the burglary.

Mr Rutland identified the “distinctive rose gold diamond Octopussy drop earrings and also a distinctive necklace… identical in appearance to one I purchased for my wife.”

The necklace – one of only 15 ever made – cost $7,980 and was bought for Ms Ecclestone’s birthday, jurors were told.

Mr Jarvis told the court the burglars had also made off with £125,000 in cash and 200,000 Hong Kong dollars – about £20,000.

He said one of the foreign bank notes was found on a fence in the rear garden of Ms Ecclestone’s home which the burglars had climbed over to make their escape.

Detailing the movements of the burglars and the “support cast” after the raid, Mr Jarvis said the group moved from a “base” in Orpington to an AirBnB in Fulham which cost nearly £1,500.

Mr Savastru used his Mastercard to order a £42 pizza delivery to the address on 18 December, Mr Jarvis said.

He also used the card to purchase tickets to Milan and Belgrade for those involved in the heist, the court was told, and searched for “burglaries in London” on the Met Police website.

Mr Savastru’s phone was also used to make searches about a Thai monk pendant and a Tag Heuer connected smart watch – items taken from late football boss Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s home.

Ms Mester and Mr Savastru are accused alongside Alexandru Stan, 49, and Sorin Marcovici, 52. who also deny conspiracy to burgle charges.

The trial continues.