United Kingdom

RICHARD KAY: Amber Heard is banking on this formidable legal duo to slip a stiletto into Johnny Depp

You would think that with an ex-wife from whom he says he once cowered in a locked bathroom to escape her fists, Johnny Depp had more than enough to worry about in the sensational High Court case holding Britain in its thrall.

But one look across Court 13 this week and it was clear that Amber Heard, who is appearing as a witness against Depp in his libel action against The Sun, was not the only formidable blonde out to take down the Hollywood star.

He also faces two of the sharpest legal brains in the land.

Amber Heard is pictured above arriving at the High Court with Jennifer Robinson. It is hard to imagine Ms Wass, who defended the serial killer Rosemary West, ever walking hand in hand with a client, as Ms Robinson did with Miss Heard on the opening day of Depp’s case

One has a reputation as a legal rottweiler and made her name both prosecuting and defending in some of the highest-profile cases of recent times, including the conviction of Rolf Harris.

The other’s fame arose as much from a picture of her locked in a clammy embrace with a former Labour spin-doctor as from her low necklines and A-list friends.

Elfin-faced QC Sasha Wass, the ice-cool lawyer acting for The Sun, and Jennifer Robinson, who also acts for former WikiLeaks fugitive Julian Assange and is a friend of the Clooneys — she was a bridesmaid at their Venice wedding — seem an unlikely double act.

It is hard to imagine Ms Wass, who defended the serial killer Rosemary West, ever walking hand in hand with a client, as Ms Robinson did with Miss Heard on the opening day of Depp’s case.

Both women are high-minded and serious but Ms Robinson —Jen to her friends — looked very much part of Team Heard (which also includes the actress’s lookalike sister Whitney and Heard’s girlfriend Bianca Butti).

Striding into court, holding Amber’s hand tightly and with a faint smile on her face, she couldn’t have failed to turn heads.

But while Ms Robinson may be hands-on in Team Amber, it is Sasha Wass, 62, whose skilled advocacy is being pitted against Depp and his claims

Her figure-hugging outfit was certainly more striking than the demure black dress worn by her star client.

But Ms Robinson, whose Twitter feed often used to reveal her support for former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, has become adept at life in the spotlight.

Indeed, she managed effortlessly to brush off being photographed in a clinch with Seumas Milne, the Marxist-sympathising former Guardian journalist, a father of two and at the time a married man, without a shred of discomfort.

In July 2017, those pictures were the talk of London’s political class. They showed the two enjoying a clinch on the terrace of the Courthouse hotel in East London.

‘They were very hands-on, full heavy petting,’ recalled the photographer. 

‘There was a lot of hugging, stroking, kissing and intimate talking going on. The photo with her head nestled into him — that was them mid-snog.’

The pair were reported to have shared pink cocktails before returning to the hotel, where rooms then cost £300 a night.

What happened next, nobody knows — although ‘friends’ of Labour’s director of strategy and communications claimed he was ‘not a willing participant’ in any sexual indiscretion.

But a year later Milne had moved out of the home in Richmond upon Thames that he shared with his wife of 26 years, who was reported to have filed for divorce.

Perhaps this brush with notoriety was what attracted the free-spirited Miss Heard to ‘Jen’ in the first place. 

I understand Ms Robinson was critical to getting the actress to come to London to testify — and her friendship with Amal Clooney was critical to her gaining Amber’s confidence.

‘It took me about four seconds total to realise I was dealing with the smartest woman in the room,’ the actress said of their first encounter. 

‘She is sensitive to the issues, to understanding the nuanced adversity and pain of disadvantage...’

So what is it about dynamic Ms Robinson that makes her the go-to lawyer on matters of human rights, civil liberties, national security and now matrimonial disputes?

Certainly she has remained devoted to Assange, her fellow Australian, who is still on remand in Belmarsh Prison facing extradition to the U.S., although many supporters have abandoned him.She admits she finds him fascinating. 

‘He is incredibly principled, and doggedly so,’ she has said.

Many might say principle and doggedness sum up Ms Robinson.

The daughter of a racehorse trainer, from Berry, New South Wales, she came to the UK to study at Balliol College, Oxford. After a short stint with a City law firm, she joined the trendy practice Doughty Street Chambers.

From 2010 onwards she represented Assange and became a heroine of the liberal establishment, criticising the Tories on their human rights record and regularly tweeting support for Corbyn.

But while Ms Robinson may be hands-on in Team Amber, it is Sasha Wass, 62, whose skilled advocacy is being pitted against Depp and his claims.

Jennifer Robinson is pictured above kissing Seumas Milne. In July 2017, those pictures were the talk of London’s political class. They showed the two enjoying a clinch on the terrace of the Courthouse hotel in East London

A criminal barrister with more than 38 years’ experience at the Bar, she is highly regarded and in 2015 was named Criminal Silk of the Year. She is known for her attention to detail and relentless cross-examination.

She also features on a list of Britain’s top 13 women litigators — dubbed ‘the fearsome 13’ — and is known for her quizzical eyebrows and penchant for wearing leather boots in the courtroom.

The daughter of a Treasury mandarin, she is said to possess a photographic memory.

She represented Anne Diamond’s ex-husband Mike Hollingsworth on drink-driving charges and successfully defended celebrity hairdresser Daniel Galvin Jr when he was accused of shooting an airgun at his neighbours.

In the 1990s she defended serial killer Rosemary West and bow-tied fraudster Roger Levitt.

But the case that really made her name was that of Rolf Harris.

Ms Wass was the lead prosecutor for the trial of the children’s entertainer, who was jailed in 2014 on 12 counts of indecent assault.

She was then appointed lead investigator for the St Helena Child Abuse Inquiry, into an alleged conspiracy to cover up the sexual exploitation of girls on the South Atlantic island.

More recently, she was unveiled as a presenter on the BBC One show Murder, Mystery And My Family, in which she re-examined real historic murder cases.

Her admirers say she is the go-to lawyer for cases involving ‘sex, drugs, violence and fraud’. 

A familiarity with lights, camera and action may also help her in a case involving a famous film star.

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