Heard avoids dog-smuggling conviction

Media captionJohnny Depp and his wife Amber Heard expressed remorse in a video message made public by the Australian Department of Agriculture

Amber Heard, the wife of actor Johnny Depp, has avoided conviction for illegally taking dogs into Australia.

Ms Heard, who appeared in court on Monday, had pleaded guilty 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).

Two illegal importation charges against her were dropped earlier.

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

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.

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

Australia gripped by Terriergate

#WarOnTerrier: How Australia reacted to Depp’s dogs

Jon Donnison, BBC News, Southport

Image copyright
ABC/Happy Dogz

Image caption

Pistol and Boo’s presence in Australia last year was discovered when a picture was posted of them at grooming parlour

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, 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.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

A huge media contingent was on hand when Mr Depp and Ms Heard arrived at Southport Magistrate’s Court

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.

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