Johnny Depp was a "hopeless addict" whose abuse of drugs and alcohol was so extreme he may not have realised "the extent of his violence and terrifying behaviour" against Amber Heard, the High Court has heard.

A dramatic three-week legal battle, brought by the Hollywood actor over a 2018 news story which called him a "wife beater", began to draw to a conclusion on Monday with final submissions from lawyers.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star launched libel proceedings against News Group Newspapers (NGN), publisher of The Sun, and its executive editor Dan Wootton - who have been supported by evidence from Heard, his ex-wife.

Sasha Wass QC, for NGN, told the High Court on Monday that "overwhelming" evidence existed which showed Depp had committed domestic violence against his former partner.

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US actress Amber Heard waves as she departs from the High Court. Photo / AP
US actress Amber Heard waves as she departs from the High Court. Photo / AP

The publisher is relying on a defence of truth against Depp's defamation claim, which only requires it to demonstrate he had been a wife beater on "one occasion", Wass said.

"During the last two weeks, the defendants have established that many more than one incident of wife-beating took place over the course of the relationship between the claimant and Amber Heard," she told the court.

The "drug and alcohol-fuelled lifestyle" of Depp provided the backdrop to the case, as the first year of the couple's relationship came during a time he was substance-free, the court heard.

Heard has described this period as "idyllic" and it was not until March 2013, when Depp was abusing illegal drugs and alcohol, that the actress first became aware of "the monster".

Wass told the court: "The relevance of the substance abuse by Mr Depp is two-fold.

"Firstly, it demonstrates that the claimant was subject to irrational mood swings and abnormal behavioural patterns, which would not have been present when Mr Depp was clean and sober, and Mr Depp has a name for this metamorphosed entity, namely 'The Monster'.

Actor Johnny Depp has filed the action after being called a 'wife beater', an allegation he strenuously denies. Photo / AP
Actor Johnny Depp has filed the action after being called a 'wife beater', an allegation he strenuously denies. Photo / AP

"The other aspect which is important in terms of substance abuse is Mr Depp's recollection of his own disgraceful conduct, which is so severely impaired by drug misuse that he may not even have been aware of the extent of his violence and terrifying behaviour which, on more than one of these pleaded incidents, put Ms Heard in fear of her life."

Depp, she said, was "a hopeless addict who repeatedly lost his self-control and all ability to restrain his anger".

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The publisher is relying on 14 alleged incidents of domestic violence, including what Heard describes as a "three-day hostage situation" in Australia in March 2015 when Depp lost the tip of his middle finger in disputed circumstances.

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Wass said the days were "long past" when the court would have required corroboration before accepting "the unsupported testimony of a female complainant".

Many of the witnesses cross-examined by Depp's lawyers had been asked whether they had actually seen him hit Heard, she said.

"This, we submit, is not a meritorious observation in the context of domestic violence," Ms Wass told the court.

"Domestic violence, as the name suggests, takes place behind closed doors, in the home, in private, and it takes place against the backdrop of a complex relationship."

Amber Heard arrives at High Court for final submissions on the case Johnny Depp has filed against The Sun and its publishers. Photo / AP
Amber Heard arrives at High Court for final submissions on the case Johnny Depp has filed against The Sun and its publishers. Photo / AP

Depp repeatedly flew into destructive rages when he became consumed by "jealousy", the court heard, including over what he perceived to be Heard's infidelities - which she has always denied.

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Wass continued: "In answer to what we suggest is overwhelming evidence of domestic violence or wife-beating behaviour, catalogued over a three-year period between 2013 and 2016, Mr Depp's response is to claim that he is a victim of an elaborate hoax that has been perpetrated against him by Ms Heard and her friends."

The barrister said Depp had accused Heard and her friends of "having painted on injuries, manipulated photographs and destroyed property which they then went on to photograph in order to create what he describes as some sort of insurance policy for Ms Heard".

Wass added: "What exactly Ms Heard was insuring against in the course of this hoax remains unexplained."

She told the court that such a hoax "would have entailed Ms Heard engaging in a pre-planned conspiracy over the period of the entire relationship with Mr Depp", adding: "Such a suggestion, we say, is risible."

Depp's lawyers will make their closing submissions on Tuesday.