HOLLYWOOD actor Johnny Depp and wife Amber Heard have appeared in a video repenting biosecurity breaches relating to the couple’s pet dogs Boo and Pistol arriving in Australia illegally last year.
Frenzied scenes accompanied the couple’s appearance before the Southport Magistrates Court on the Gold Coast this morning.
Ms Heard eventually pleaded guilty to breaching the Criminal Code Act 1995 after admitting to unlawfully bringing the two pet dogs into Australia in April 2015.
She was placed on a one month good behaviour bond in the amount of $1000 for making a false declaration on her Incoming Passenger Card and saying she was not travelling with any live animals when she did, in fact, have two dogs in her luggage.
In addition to the ruling, Ms Heard and Mr Depp provided a video expressing remorse for her actions.
In the short 40 second video posted online today, Ms Heard said Australia was a wonderful island with a treasure trove of unique plants, animals and people.
“Australia is free of many pests and diseases that are common-place around the world; that is why Australia has to have such strong biosecurity laws,” she said.
“I am truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared – protecting Australia is important.”
In the video Mr Depp said Australia “has to be protected” and Australians are just as unique, “both warm and direct”, as the nation’s biosecurity system.
“When you disrespect Australian law they will tell you firmly,” he said.
“Declare everything when you enter Australia.”
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ Deputy Secretary Lyn O’Connell said Australia had strict biosecurity requirements to manage the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering the country.
Ms O’Connell said import conditions for dogs had been developed to protect Australia from a number of pests and diseases, including rabies, ehrlichia and leishmanial.
But she said Ms Heard’s actions put the health of our people, pets and native animals at risk.
“The video provided by Ms Heard shows that she now understands that what she did was wrong and why,” she said.
“Her willingness to take responsibility for her actions - despite media commentary at the time - is good to see.
“There are no exceptions to the rule; Australia applies its laws equally to all passengers arriving into the country.”
Ms O’Connell said it was particularly disappointing and frustrating when serious non-compliance was uncovered.
She said the onus was on travellers coming to Australia to do the right thing and fill out the Incoming Passenger Card truthfully which was a legal document.
The incident set up a high profile verbal conflict between Mr Depp and Australian Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce over the past year.
When the incident was first uncovered, Mr Joyce warned the actor during a media conference that his two pet terriers must return to the US within 72-hours or else they’d be euthanised, after entering the country illegally.
“It’s time Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the United States - and after that I don’t expect to be invited to the opening of Pirates of the Caribbean,” he said.
The Department was alerted to the presence of the two dogs in Australia on May 13 last year when they gained media attention after visiting a dog groomer on the Gold Coast.
A biosecurity officer verified their presence and gave Ms Heard and Mr Depp 72 hours to remove the dogs from the country, which was done on May 15, at their expense.
In a statement today, Mr Joyce said he welcomed conclusion of court proceedings against Ms Heard and appreciated her willingness to take responsibility for her actions and acknowledgement that she breached national biosecurity laws.
“These legal proceedings reinforce the clear message I sent internationally last year that we will not tolerate disregard for our biosecurity laws, no matter who you are,” he said.
“These legal proceedings clearly illustrate the government’s serious approach to enforcing our national biosecurity laws, and the fact that there are no exceptions to these laws – they apply to everyone equally.
“As an island nation, Australia is free of many pests and diseases common throughout the world that have harmed human health, agricultural industries, animals, plants and the environment.
“We do not want diseases and pests such as rabies, foot and mouth, screwfly, the varroa mite or ehrlichiosis in our country, and we do not want people making their own arrangements for what they bring into our country.”
Mr Joyce said biosecurity was critical to the profitability of Australia’s $52 billion agriculture sector and therefore our national economy.
“The benefits of having such a strong biosecurity system flow throughout the whole country,” he said.
“Our broad market access hinges on our reputation as clean and green exporter of high quality agricultural produce.
“A serious biosecurity incursion could put our access to those markets at serious risk.”
Mr Joyce was criticised by animal rights groups for threatening to euthanise the two dogs but farm industry representatives have praised the minister’s strong stance on biosecurity protections.
Last December, he won a Froggatt Award for principled decision-making in standing up for the nation’s quarantine laws and biosecurity standards over the incident.
Mr Depp’s latest jibe at Mr Joyce over the incident was on the red carpet at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in February when he was asked if he planned a return visit to Australia and replied, “absolutely”.
“I think that guy Barnaby he invited me to stay at his house for some reason,” he quipped.
The story Johnny Depp stars in biosecurity video after guilty plea first appeared on The Land.