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23 August 2023

Australian prosecutors drop case against Amber Heard over pet Yorkshire terriers

23 August 2023

Australian prosecutors have dropped a potential criminal case against American actress Amber Heard over allegations that she lied to a court about how her Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, came to be smuggled into Australia eight years ago, the government said on Wednesday.

Heard and her then-husband, Johnny Depp, became embroiled in a high-profile biosecurity controversy in 2015 when she took her pets to Australia’s Gold Coast, where Depp was filming the fifth movie in the Pirates Of The Caribbean series.

Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, a biosecurity watchdog, said the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions had decided against prosecuting 37-year-old Heard for allegedly feigning ignorance about the nation’s strict quarantine regulations.

Prosecution action will not be taken against ... Heard over allegations related to her sentencing for the illegal import of two dogs

“Prosecution action will not be taken against … Heard over allegations related to her sentencing for the illegal import of two dogs,” it said in a statement.

The department had investigated discrepancies between what Heard’s lawyer told an Australian court in 2016 – when she admitted smuggling the dogs – and evidence given in a London court in 2020 when Depp, now 60, was suing The Sun newspaper for libel over allegations of domestic violence against his former wife.

Heard had pleaded guilty in 2016 at Southport Magistrates’ Court in Queensland to providing a false immigration document when the couple took their dogs into Australia in a chartered jet a year earlier.

Prosecutors dropped more serious charges that Heard illegally imported the dogs – which carried a potential 10-year prison sentence.

The false documentation charge carried a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a fine of more than 10,000 Australian dollars (£5,000).

Magistrate Bernadette Callaghan sentenced Heard instead to a one-month good behaviour bond, under which she would only have to pay a fine of 1,000 Australian dollars (£500) if she committed any offence in Australia over the following month.

Heard’s lawyer, Jeremy Kirk, told the court that his client never meant to lie on her incoming passenger card by failing to declare she had animals with her. In truth, he said, she was simply jetlagged and assumed her assistants had sorted out the paperwork.

But a former Depp employee, Kevin Murphy, told London’s High Court in 2020 that Heard had been repeatedly warned she was not permitted to take dogs to Australia. But she insisted, and later pressured a staff member to take the blame for breaking quarantine laws.

The department told the Associated Press it collaborated with overseas agencies to investigate whether Heard had provided false evidence about her knowledge of Australia’s biosecurity laws and whether an employee had falsified a statutory declaration under duress of losing their job.

The department had provided prosecutors with a brief of evidence against Heard, but no charges would be laid.

When the dogs were discovered in May 2015 following a trip from the couple’s rented Gold Coast mansion to a dog grooming business, Depp and Heard complied with a government-imposed 50-hour deadline to fly them back to the United States or have them euthanised.

Pistol and Boo became Heard’s property when the couple divorced in 2017.

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