Rebekah Vardy v Coleen Rooney

Reference: [2021] EWHC 1888 (QB)

Court: High Court, Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Steyn J

Date of judgment: 7 Jul 2021

Summary: Libel – summary judgment – strike out – social media – proportionality

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

Instructing Solicitors: Brabners LLP for the Defendant.


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

D had posted a number of fake stories on her Private Instagram account in order to discover where the leak was coming from: a story about gender selection in Mexico; a story about D returning to television presenting (“the TV Decisions Post”), and a story about the basement flooding in the Defendant’s new house.

Given suspicions about the identity of the source of these leaks, D had deliberately limited the accessibility to this private account to just one of her followers: C’s account. Articles similar to the fake stories (about D considering gender selection in Mexico; D returning to television presenting (“the TV Decisions Article”) and the basement flooding in D’s new house) appeared in The Sun soon after.

C applied for summary judgment in relation to the TV Decisions Article and to strike out twelve paragraphs of D’s defence which were part of D’s inferential case the C was behind the leaks.


(1) Should there be summary judgment over the TV Decisions Article?

(2) Should the Defendant’s defence of public interest be struck out?

(3) Should the Defendant’s pleaded case of the Claimant’s close relationship with journalists at The Sun be struck out?

(4) Should particulars detailing positive promotion of the Claimant from The Sun be struck out?

(5) Should particulars of the Claimant’s self-promotion be struck out?

(6) Should particulars alleging the Claimant was the primary source of The Secret Wag be struck out?

(7) Alternatively, should any further issues be excluded under CPR r.3.1(2)(k) and/or (m)?


 (1) No. C’s application for summary judgment should be rejected, as should C’s alternative application that the TV Decisions Article should be excluded from consideration pursuant to CPR r.3.1(2)(k).

C contended that D’s case that the TV Decisions Post was the source of the TV Decisions Article has no real prospect of success as the two were dissimilar. D raised a point of principle that the point was not an “issue” for the purposes of CPR r.24.2 per Anan Kasei Co v Neo Chemicals [2021] EWHC 1035 (Ch). C submitted that Anan Kasei should not be followed as it would give the word “issue” an unnecessarily narrow meaning.

Steyn J found Anan Kasei applies and should be followed. In effect C sought the determination of a preliminary issue rather than summary judgment, yet the issue is not one which any court would ever allow to be determined as a preliminary issue. It is a question that can only properly be answered at trial and is not discrete but something that could be affected by the evidence and any pattern of disclosure by C of private information from D’s private Instagram.

(2) No. C’s application to strike out the public interest defence should be rejected. The application to strike out this part of the pleading was raised late and the defendant was not given a proper opportunity to consider it in evidence.

D acknowledged that there are some points pleaded that post-date the Post and so this should be clarified by amendment. The appropriate course is for D to amend the pleading rather than the court to strike out any part of it.

(3) In part. The particulars of C’s exceptionally close relationship with the press and journalists should not be struck out save for sections relating to C’s self-promotion and in relation to a leak of without prejudice discussions to The Sun.

An exceptionally close relationship between C and the newspaper or journalists to whom the Posts are alleged to have been provided is one of the building blocks on which D’s inferential case is built. C’s engagement on social media with these journalists is relevant in considering D’s case. These sections should not be struck out. However, allegations relating to (i) C’s publicity seeking behaviour and (ii) of leaks of without prejudice discussions to The Sun during the currency of the litigation itself should be struck out. These are not probative to the issue of what is alleged in the Post. (See also (5) below.)

(4) No. C’s application to strike out particulars of positive promotion of C by The Sun should be refused.

These particulars go to C’s alleged purpose or motive in disclosing private information and forms one of the building blocks of D’s inferential case. The issues to which it gives rise are relatively confined and addressing them is not disproportionate.

(5) Yes. The particulars of C’s self-promotion should be struck out.

Particulars of C’s self-promotion are not probative of whether C disclosed private information about another to the press. There is a distinction between choosing to put private information about oneself into the public domain and disclosing private information about another person without their permission.

(6) No. C’s application to strike out particulars alleging that C is The Secret Wag should be refused.

C contended that determination of these issues would involve substantial time and costs. D contended this pleading is admissible as similar fact evidence and in support of a Burstein plea.

While the paragraphs do not go to the core issues, the allegation that C was a primary source for a gossip column about professional footballers and their partners is probative similar fact evidence. The number of articles were quite limited and not likely to add disproportionately to time and costs.

(7) No. C’s alternative application to exclude matters under case management grounds should be refused.

CPR r.3.1(2) does not lead to any different conclusion and no further paragraphs should be excluded for being disproportionate to litigate or contrary to the overriding objective.


This judgment shows the dangers of applying for summary judgment and to strike out parts of a defence at an early stage where a defence is inferential and the matters under attack are probative. The Defendant was determined to be the overall winner of the applications and was awarded part of her costs.

The judgment also provides clear guidance that matters that are not a severable part of proceedings are not amenable to summary judgment.