Coleen Rooney’s post ‘clearly identified’ Rebekah Vardy as guilty of leaking stories, judge rules

Judge rejects argument by Mrs Rooney’s legal team that she referred to Mrs Vardy’s account rather than the claimant herself

Kate Ng
Friday 20 November 2020 18:31 GMT
Rebekah Vardy arrives for Dancing on Ice training as libel battle continues

Coleen Rooney’s post accusing Rebekah Vardy of leaking false stories about her private life to the media “clearly identified” her as being “guilty of the serious and consistent breach of trust she alleges”, the High Court has ruled.

Mrs Rooney, 34, wrote posts on Instagram and Twitter after a months-long “sting operation” accusing Mrs Vardy, 38, of feeding stories to the media. The saga earned her the nickname “Wagatha Christie”.

Mrs Vardy has denied the accusations and is suing Mrs Rooney for damages in a libel claim. Her lawyer told the court he would be seeking costs of nearly £23,000. Mr Justice Warby said he had determined the meaning of the post to be “substantially the same as the claimant’s meaning”.

Last October, the wife of former England star Wayne Rooney claimed she had traced fake stories in The Sun newspaper – based on her Instagram posts – to Mrs Vardy’s account.

She wrote: “I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them.

“It’s……… Rebekah Vardy’s account.”

In his judgment on Friday, Mr Justice Warby ruled that the “natural and ordinary” meaning of Mrs Rooney’s posts was that Mrs Vardy had “regularly and frequently abused her status as a trusted follower of Ms Rooney’s personal Instagram account by secretly informing The Sun newspaper of Ms Rooney’s private posts and stories”.

Announcing his ruling, the judge said Mrs Rooney’s message was “a considered post, using wording composed with some care”, adding: “It would be clear to the ordinary reader from the outset that it was meant seriously, and intended to convey a message of some importance.”

In the hearing on Thursday, Mrs Rooney’s legal team argued that she referred to Mrs Vardy’s Instagram account instead of Mrs Vardy herself.

This argument was rejected by Mr Justice Warby, who said: “I certainly do not think that the ordinary reader would take that single word (account), albeit repeated, to indicate that Mrs Rooney remains in doubt about who the wrongdoer was.

“There is nothing in these words, apart from the word ‘account’, that in any way suggests that the behaviour of which Mrs Rooney is complaining might have been carried out by anyone other than the account holder, Mrs Vardy.”

Mrs Vardy’s barrister, Hugh Tomlinson QC, told the court on Thursday that Mrs Rooney’s posts were an “untrue and unjustified defamatory attack”, which was “published and republished to millions of people”.

He added: “In fact, [Mrs Vardy] did nothing wrong. Whatever leaks there were did not come from her.”

Court documents written by Mrs Vardy’s lawyers said the incident had affected her mental and physical health.

David Sherborne, arguing on behalf of Mrs Rooney, said it was “true” that Mrs Vardy was “responsible for consistently passing on information about the defendant’s private Instagram posts and stories to The Sun”.

“Mrs Rooney intends to defend these words as true in whatever meaning,” he added.

The court also heard both parties agreed for a “stay” of the proceedings until February, so there could be “one final attempt to resolve the matter without the need for a full trial”.

Matthew Dando, a partner at media and technology law firm Wiggin LLP, said the judge’s decision was a “disastrous result” for Mrs Rooney, and she would have to “prove the truth of what she said in order to defend the claim”.

“This makes it much harder for Coleen to prove the truth of the allegation because she will have to show that it was Rebekah herself who was leaking the stories,” he said.

“It won’t be enough to show that the leak simply came from her account or people operating it.”

Mr Dando added that the ruling “really raises the stakes”, but if Mrs Rooney succeeds in proving Mrs Vardy’s involvement in the leaked stories, the result will be “devastating for Rebekah’s reputation”.

“Suing for libel is always high risk, as Johnny Depp recently discovered,” he said, referring to the Pirates of the Caribbean star’s high-profile libel case against The Sun, which he lost.

“If this case fights all the way to trial it will be yet another example of a celebrity reputation won or lost in the courtroom.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in