Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial: What is gaslighting and is it illegal in the UK?

THE ongoing defamation trial involving Johnny Depp and Amber Heard continues to bring a focus on domestic abuse.

Sunday, 1st May 2022, 8:30 pm
Amber Heard (R) speaks to her legal team as US actor Johhny Depp (L) returns to the stand after a lunch recess during the 50 million US dollar Depp vs Heard defamation trial at the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Fairfax, Virginia, April 21, 2022. Picture: JIM LO SCALZO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The former married couple are currently suing each other in Virginia, United States.

It was sparked after Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife for defamation for $50m over an opinion piece she published in the Washington Post where she described herself as a survivor of domestic abuse.

Ms Heard counter sued and now a trial is taking place.

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The trial has attracted plenty of attention since it began in April.

Gawker reports that the “#justiceforjohnnydepp” hashtag on TikTok has over 1.1bn views.

A livestream of the trial continues to attract huge attention, with people commentating on the proceedings.

Among the many comments the term ‘gaslighting’ has been heavily used – and if you search ‘gaslighting Johnny Depp’ on YouTube it brings up a number of videos.

But what exactly is gaslighting and is it illegal in the UK?

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation, where someone manipulates another person into doubting their own sanity.

Where does the name come from?

The name comes from the 1944 film Gaslight in which a young woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she is descending into insanity.

Is it illegal in the UK?

It is recognised as a criminal offence in the UK.