Australian prosecutors dropped a potential criminal case against American actor 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 Wednesday.
Heard and her then-husband Johnny Depp became embroiled in a high-profile biosecurity controversy in 2015 when she brought 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 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,” the department said in a statement.
13:01Depp v. Heard and the defamation case witnessed around the world
The department had investigated discrepancies between what her lawyer told an Australian court in 2016 — when she admitted smuggling the dogs — and testimony given in a London court in 2020 when Depp, now 60, was suing The Sun newspaper in the U.K. for libel over allegations of domestic violence against his former wife.
Heard had pleaded guilty in 2016 at the Southport Magistrates Court in Australia to providing a false immigration document when the couple brought their dogs into Australia in a chartered jet a year earlier. Prosecutors dropped more serious charges that Heard illegally imported the dogs — a potential 10-year prison sentence.
The dog debacle had seemed to end with an apology video in which Depp and Heard sat stone-faced in front of the camera, delivering stilted lines about the importance of protecting Australia’s biodiversity.
“Australia’s a wonderful island, with a treasure trove of unique plants, animals and people,” Heard said in the video. “I am truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared. Protecting Australia is important.”
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 bring dogs to Australia. But she insisted, and later pressured a staff member to take the blame for breaking quarantine laws.
Australia’s agriculture department subsequently opened a perjury investigation.
Jet lag cited
The false documentation charge in the original case carried a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a fine of more than 10,000 Australian dollars ($8,700 Cdn). 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 ($870 Cdn) if she committed any offence in Australia over the next 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, Kirk said, she was simply jetlagged and assumed her assistants had sorted out the paperwork.
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 euthanized.
Pistol and Boo went with Heard when the couple divorced in 2017.
A British judge ruled against Depp in the Sun defamation case, but in a high-profile case in Virginia, he won a libel suit against Heard over an article published in the Washington Post. The same American jury found that Heard was defamed by one of Depp’s lawyers.