Depp court text disclosure said to be “accidental”. Let’s wait and see before rushing to criticise

It’s been a good week for those of us who like to see discovery / disclosure stories in the mainstream media. Less so, perhaps, for the chap convicted of murder thanks to technology (my article is here) and for Johnny Depp’s former lawyers in his libel case against the Sun.

I have only a Guardian story to go on. Behind the headline ‘Let’s burn Amber’: texts allegedly sent by Johnny Depp about ex read in court is this:

Depp’s previous legal team accidentally shared an archive of 70,000 messages with the Sun’s lawyers.

I don’t know who the lawyers were, and I don’t know what lies behind the journalist’s choice of the word “accidentally”. Depp’s text messages must have been thought to have some bearing on the issues to have been collected at all. The story now said to be libellous is about an alleged assault by Depp on his former wife, so their content as reported (“Let’s drown her before we burn her!!!”) is not wholly irrelevant to the allegation. It is hard to see what privilege would attach to them if they were otherwise disclosable. I have no idea whether they should have been disclosed or not (and you can’t overdo the words “alleged” and “allegation” in stories like this).

My purpose is not the trite “Be careful what you disclose”. You take care anyway. I mention it in order to suggest:

a) that we wait for something more authoritative than a newspaper report, and less ambiguous than the word “accidentally”; and

b) that if this was indeed the unintentional disclosure of material which did not have to be disclosed, we quietly mutter “There but for the grace of God go I” instead of mocking those who got it wrong.


I have one other tip peripherally related to Johnny Depp. His texts were to Paul Bettany, his co-star in the 2015 film Mortdecai. Don’t watch the film (I gave up after ten minutes despite having an 8 hour flight ahead of me). Instead, read the Mortdecai Trilogy by Kyril Bonfiglioli. The books will give you lasting pleasure.


About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
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