Judgment reserved in Vardy v Rooney

The Vardy v Rooney trial concluded yesterday after seven days in the High Court before Mrs Justice Steyn. The high-profile libel claim concerns posts by Coleen Rooney on Instagram and Twitter, which alleged that Rebekah Vardy had secretly informed The Sun newspaper of Mrs Rooney’s private posts and stories from Instagram. Mrs Vardy seeks damages for injury to her reputation and distress.

Since Mrs Rooney published the social media post in October 2019 and Mrs Vardy issued proceedings in libel in June 2020, the trial had been long-awaited. The legal meaning of the social media post was determined by Mr Justice Warby (as he then was) in November 2020. Mrs Vardy then unsuccessfully applied for summary judgment in the proceedings in relation to one of the three “sting operation” posts on Mrs Rooney’s Instagram account, which were viewable only by Mrs Vardy’s account.

At a pre-trial review last month, Mrs Rooney applied for disclosure against News Group Newspaper Ltd (NGN), the publisher of The Sun, of communications between Mrs Vardy and her agent Caroline Watt, and a number of NGN journalists. Mrs Justice Steyn granted the application in relation to the journalist Andrew Halls, but refused the application in relation to other journalists. Following the PTR, three NGN journalists who had been served with witness summons by Mrs Vardy successfully applied for the summons to be set aside, and Mrs Rooney unsuccessfully applied for the messages withheld by NGN on source protection grounds to be disclosed.

The trial began at the High Court, Royal Courts of Justice, on 11 May 2022. Mrs Rooney relied on the defences of truth and public interest. In an application on the first day of trial, Mrs Justice Steyn gave permission for Mrs Rooney to rely on a witness statement of Harpreet Robertson. Both Mrs Vardy and Mrs Rooney gave evidence at trial, as well as others including Mrs Rooney’s husband former English footballer Wayne Rooney.

The trial attracted global media attention and was referred to in the press as the ‘Wagatha Christie’ case. Publications including The Daily Mail, The Independent and The Mirror provided daily case reports.

5RB’s David Sherborne and Ben Hamer appeared for Coleen Rooney. Adam Wolanski QC and Clara Hamer appeared for NGN in the interlocutory applications earlier in the proceedings.

A 5RB case report will follow after judgment.