You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Heard avoids dog-smuggling conviction

BBC News BBC News 18/04/2016
Actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have returned to Australia to face dog smuggling charges © Getty Images Actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have returned to Australia to face dog smuggling charges

Actress Amber Heard has avoided a conviction for illegally taking her dogs into Australia.

Johnny Depp arrives at court: A huge media contingent was on hand when Mr Depp and Ms Heard arrived at Southport Magistrate's Court © Getty Images A huge media contingent was on hand when Mr Depp and Ms Heard arrived at Southport Magistrate's Court

Ms Heard, married to actor Johnny Depp, had pleaded guilty in court to making a false statement on her immigration card about the couple's Yorkshire terriers.

But the Queensland judge gave her a one-month good behaviour bond with no conviction recorded. If she breaks the bond she must pay A$1,000 ($770; £540).

The authorities also released an unusual video apology from the couple.

In the video, which was shown in court and made public by the Department of Agriculture, the couple expressed remorse and advised travellers to respect Australian quarantine laws.

Bizarre video apology sparks online mockery

Australia gripped by Terriergate

#WarOnTerrier: How Australia reacted to Depp's dogs

Ms Heard and Mr Depp both attended Southport Magistrate's Court in Queensland state, amid a media scrum.

Her guilty plea meant Mr Depp was excused from giving evidence to the court.

Two illegal importation charges against her were dropped earlier.

They had carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail or fines of up to A$265,000.

Jon Donnison, BBC News, Southport

It had been dubbed Australia's War on Terrier. In the end it concluded rather more amicably.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard arrived in court looking relaxed, if a little jet lagged, having reportedly flown in by private jet from Hawaii. It was a long way to come for a very short court case.

At the time the incident provoked a war of words with Australia's then-agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce (now deputy prime minister), who said the dogs should "bugger off back to the United States" or risk being put down. Mr Depp fired back referring to Mr Joyce as some kind of "sweaty, big-gutted man from Australia".

In court, though, proceedings were much more civil and perhaps even dull. Mr Depp appeared close to dozing off on several occasions.

As the sentencing was read out, the couple embraced, perhaps with relief. Ms Heard got off relatively lightly.

And after a case that has likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, some will be asking if it was all really worth it.

Ms Heard brought the dogs, Pistol and Boo, to Queensland in a private jet in May 2015 to visit Mr Depp, who was filming Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

The dogs' presence in the country was noticed after a local dog groomer posted a photo of them on social media.

Ms Heard, 29, had pleaded guilty to declaring "No" on her immigration card under the section asking if she was bringing anything, including animals, into the country.

Her lawyer argued that the actress had done so because she thought Mr Depp's assistants had already sorted out the dogs' travel documents.

The dogs were quickly taken out of the country and Ms Heard vowed never to return to Australia.

Australia's tough quarantine laws are designed to keep disease at bay. Dogs entering from the US must spend 10 days in quarantine.

Australia's quarantine laws

Live animals and plants, plant material, animal products and some food from overseas cannot be brought into the country without government permission because they can introduce some of the world's most serious pests and diseases.

Those who flout the rules face fines of more than A$66,000 ($51,000; £36,000) and risk 10 years jail.

As an example of how serious it can be, in 1995 a 500km (310-mile) by 200km quarantine zone was established in northern Queensland just to control foreign fruit fly maggots.

More From BBC News

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon