Rebekah Vardy v Coleen Rooney

Reference: [2022] EWHC 2017 (QB)

Court: High Court, Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Steyn J

Date of judgment: 29 Jul 2022

Summary: Libel – Defence under s.2 of the Defamation Act 2013

Download: Download this judgment

Appearances: David Sherborne (Defendant)  Ben Hamer (Defendant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Brabners


Rebekah Vardy brought a claim in libel against Coleen Rooney over a post that alleged she had leaked information from Ms Rooney’s private Instagram to the press (“the Reveal Post”).

Ms Rooney had posted a number of fake stories on her Private Instagram account in order to discover where the leak was coming from. Given suspicions about the identity of the source of these leaks, Ms Rooney had deliberately limited the accessibility to this private account to just one of her followers: Ms Vardy’s account. Articles similar to the fake stories appeared in The Sun soon after.

The Reveal Post was found to bear the meaning:

“Over a period of years Ms 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, thereby making public without Ms Rooney’s permission a great deal of information about Ms Rooney, her friends and family which she did not want made public.”

Ms Rooney defended the Reveal Post primarily as true and further or alternatively as a publication of a matter of public interest.


  1. Is the Reveal Post defensible as true?
  2. Was the Reveal Post defensible as being a publication on a matter of public interest?


1. The Defendant succeeded in proving the meaning complained of was substantially true.

Ms Vardy leaked to The Sun, using Ms Watt as a conduit, a number of posts from Ms Rooney’s private Instagram account (the Marriage, Birthday, Halloween, Pyjamas, Car Crash, Gender Selection, Babysitting and Flooded Basement Posts). It was also likely that additional information from Ms Rooney’s private Instagram account was passed to the press by Ms Vardy and Ms Watt. Ms Vardy knew of and condoned the leaks, and actively engaged in them. The fact that the Gender Selection and Flooded Basement Posts were fabricated stories that Ms Rooney was keen to see published because she wanted to catch the person responsible for the leaks does not detract from the conclusion that the essential sting of the libel has been shown to be true.

The conclusion in relation to each leaked post was cumulative, taking into account that Ms Watt had: access to Ms Vardy’s Instagram account at the relevant time (contrary to her evidence); provided other posts to the press (as well as each of those about Ms Rooney); monitored the Private Instagram Account for information of potential interest with both Ms Vardy and Ms Watt working together; a close relationship with Sun journalists. Ms Rooney’s belief there was no reason to suspect any other followers was also taken into account as were the differing responses to witness summonses by The Sun, suggestive of leaks via Ms Watt.

Ms Vardy also deliberately deleted her WhatsApp chat with Ms Watt in or around October 2019 and Ms Watt deliberately dropped her phone in the sea, this was to conceal relevant evidence that would undermine Mrs Vardy’s case. Ms Vardy further deliberately made a targeted deletion of WhatsApp messages between October 2019 and June 2020. It was appropriate to draw adverse inferences against Ms Vardy pursuant to the rule in Armorie v Delamirie (1721) 93 ER 664, Gulati v MGN [2017] QB 149 and Blackledge v Person(s) Unknown [2021] EWHC 1994 (QB).

The Judge found significant parts of Ms Vardy’s evidence were not credible and it was necessary to treat her evidence with very considerable caution. There were many occasions when her evidence was manifestly inconsistent with the contemporaneous documentary evidence, where she was evasive, and was unwilling to make factual concessions however implausible her case.

The absence of Ms Vardy’s agent, Caroline Watt, was striking, and Ms Vardy chose not to call Ms Watt because she knew that when tested in cross-examination her evidence would be shown to be untrue, and it would have been highly likely to have undermined the claimant’s case that she had no involvement in disclosing information from the Private Instagram Account.

On the other hand, Ms Rooney was an honest and reliable witness, as were the other witnesses for the Defendant: Ms Monk, Ms Robertson, Mr McLoughlin, Ms Claire Rooney, Mr Stretford and Mr Rooney. Ms Adaarewa, an independent witness, was an honest witness but as her recollection was unclear no weight was given to her evidence.

The Judge also noted that it was probable that in serving witness summaries on behalf of journalists that purported to, but did not, reflect the evidence they indicated they would give – to the effect neither Ms Vardy nor Ms Watt were the source of the named articles – Ms Vardy was seeking to press Ms Rooney into a case that would have appeared to be fatally weakened, and so avoid trial.

2. The major focus of the trial was the truth defence, on which the Ms Rooney succeeded, and so it was only necessary to deal with this defence shortly.

The Reveal Post was on a matter of public interest, namely the undesirable practice of information about celebrities’ private lives being disclosed to the press by trusted individuals. Ms Rooney believed it was in the public interest but, in circumstances where the allegation had not been put to Ms Vardy prior to publication, it was not reasonable; this alternative defence therefore failed.


The conclusion to the most high profile libel case of the year. It is notable in particular for its application of the principle in Armory v Delamirie and Blackledge v Persons Unknown in drawing adverse inferences following a finding of destruction of evidence by the Claimant.