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News: Vardy v Rooney, Judge dismisses “Wagatha Christie” libel claim

On 29 July 2022, Mrs Justice Steyn handed down judgment in the highest profile libel case of the year, Vardy v Rooney [2022] EWHC 2017 (QB). The libel claim was dismissed.

In a 75 page, 290 paragraph judgment the Judge held that the defendant, Coleen Rooney, had established her defence of “truth” and, as a result, the claim failed.  The alternative defence of “publication in the public interest” was unsuccessful.

The Judge noted that there was no dispute between the parties on the law and the decision was based on a detailed consideration of the factual chronology.

The Judge found that

“Ms Vardy was party to the disclosure to The Sun of the Marriage, Birthday, Halloween, Pyjamas, Car Crash, Gender Selection, Babysitting and Flooded Basement Posts. It is likely that Ms Watt undertook the direct act, in relation to each post, of passing the information to a journalist at The Sun. Nonetheless, the evidence analysed above clearly shows, in my view, that Ms Vardy knew of and condoned this behaviour, actively engaging in it by directing Ms Watt to the Private Instagram Account, sending her screenshots of Ms Rooney’s posts, drawing attention to items of potential interest to the press, and answering additional queries raised by the press via Ms Watt” [285].

The Judge rejected Ms Vardy’s evidence on a number of crucial points. However, she found that

Ms Vardy’s part in disclosing information to The Sun was … unthinking rather than part of a considered and concerted business practice [41].

and referred to Ms Vardy having

“a degree of justified resentment at the exaggerated way in which her role has at times been presented during the litigation”. [41]

The case has been extensively covered in the press and other media including

The Sun covered the decision on the front page and several inside pages of the newspaper without once mentioning that the libel complained of involved leaks to the Sun (see this thread from Dr Evan Harris)


1 Comment

  1. Agamemnon

    A bit of an apologist piece for Mrs Vardy here; don’t forget the purposeful destruction of evidence! Perhaps the most striking part of the judgment:

    “70. The reasons that Ms Vardy and Ms Watt have given for the original WhatsApp chat being unavailable are each improbable. But the improbability of the losses occurring in the way they describe is heightened by the fact that it took the combination of these improbable events for the evidence to be unavailable: cf. The Atlantik Confidence [2016] EWHC 2412 (Admlty), Teare J, [296]-[297]. In my judgment, it is likely that Ms Vardy deliberately deleted her WhatsApp chat with Ms Watt, and that Ms Watt deliberately dropped her phone in the sea. I recognise that Ms Vardy has disclosed messages that are detrimental to her case. But I am not persuaded that the imperfection of the effort to remove incriminating evidence shows that there was no such attempt, particularly given that Ms Vardy is unlikely to have anticipated in October 2019 that evidence about, for example, Mr Drinkwater, would have to be disclosed.”

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