Judge Justice Steyn said she accepted that Coleen Rooney's reveal post was "a matter of public interest" due to "the undesirable practice of information about celebrities' private lives being disclosed to the press by trusted individuals"
Friday 29 July 2022 18:38, UK
Rebekah Vardy has lost the 'Wagatha Christie' High Court libel battle she brought against Coleen Rooney over a viral social media post.
In her judgment, Judge Justice Steyn said Rooney had succeeded in establishing that the essence of her social media post was "substantially true" - that's to say Vardy was responsible for leaking her private information to the press.
In her conclusion, she said: "I have found that Ms Vardy was party to the disclosure to The Sun... 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."
Caroline Watt was Vardy's agent and friend, and had been implicated in the leaking of the private posts during evidence heard in court. She did not give evidence during the hearing.
The court praised Rooney's evidence as "honest and reliable", but labelled Vardy's evidence: "manifestly inconsistent... evasive or implausible".
She added: "Nevertheless, I find that it is, unfortunately, necessary to treat Mrs Vardy's evidence with very considerable caution.
"There were many occasions when her evidence was manifestly inconsistent with the contemporaneous documentary evidence, e.g. in relation to the World Cup 2018 and the photoshopped pictures, and others where she was evasive."
Mrs Justice Steyn continued: "Mrs Vardy was generally unwilling to make factual concessions, however implausible her evidence.
"This inevitably affects my overall view of her credibility, although I have borne in mind that untruthful evidence may be given to mask guilt or to fortify innocence."
However, Vardy has disputed the verdict made by the judge, describing the ruling as "wrong" and not one she can accept.
"I am extremely sad and disappointed at the decision that the judge has reached," Vardy said in a statement. "It is not the result that I had expected, nor believe was just. I brought this action to vindicate my reputation and am devastated by the judge's finding.
"The judge accepted that publication of Coleen's post was not in the 'public interest' and she also rejected her claim that I was the 'Secret Wag'. But as for the rest of her judgement, she got it wrong and this is something I cannot accept."
Vardy also called for abuse given to her and her family to stop now that "the case is over".
"As I explained in my evidence I, my family and even my unborn baby, were subjected to disgusting messages and vile abuse following Coleen's post and these have continued even during the course of the trial," she added.
"Please can the people who have been abusing me and my family now stop. The case is over. I want to thank everyone who has supported me."
Meanwhile, Rooney said she was "pleased" the ruling went in her favour, but she "never believed" the case should have gone to court "at such expense in times of hardship for so many people when the money could have been far better spent helping others". She said it was "not a case I ever sought or wanted".
Her statement continued: "Both before and after my social media posts in October 2019, I made every effort to avoid the need for such a drawn-out and public court case. All my attempts to do so were knocked back by Mrs (Rebekah) Vardy.
"This left me with no alternative but to go through with the case to defend myself and to end the repeated leaking of my private information to The Sun.
"These leaks from my private Instagram account began in 2017. They continued for almost two years, intruding on my privacy and that of my family.
"Although I bear Mrs Vardy no ill-will, today's judgment makes clear that I was right in what I said in my posts of October 2019.
"Finally, I would like to thank all of my legal team, my family, friends and everyone who supported me, including the public, through this difficult and stressful time."
Rooney's friend, former WAG, Lizzie Cundy told Sky News she "wasn't surprised" by the outcome and knew Rooney would only have made the original reveal post if she was "100 per cent sure it was correct".
She said when the spat first began she had even suggested to Rooney and Vardy that they, "Come over and have some prosecco and nuts and sort this out", adding, "Now Rebekah will be thinking, 'I should have listened'".
Cundy went on: "Sadly for Becky, the evidence wasn't there, it was at the bottom of the North Sea."
She went on: "It's sad it's come this far… But it was Rebekah who wanted it to come to court".
The judge said: "It was evident that Mrs Vardy found the process of giving evidence stressful and, at times, distressing. I bear in mind when assessing her evidence the degree of stress she was naturally feeling, given the high-profile nature of the trial, the abuse that she has suffered since the reveal post was published, and the length of time she was in the witness box."
Vardy had sued Rooney after being publicly accused of leaking "false stories" to the media in 2019, with the high-profile trial taking place at the High Court in London in May.
The wife of former England international Wayne Rooney was dubbed "Wagatha Christie" after claiming three fake stories posted on her personal Instagram page - which unbeknown to Vardy at the time were shared only with her account - were passed on to The Sun newspaper.
Vardy, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denied leaking the stories and recalled to the court how she thought she might pass out when she first heard about Rooney's allegations - which came when she was heavily pregnant.
Later in the trial, she became upset several times while answering questions in the witness box about the online trolling she and her family received as a result of the claims.
In her judgment, the judge referred to some of the " vile abuse" Vardy had received online - which had included a message which someone said her baby should be incinerated - she said there was no "justification or excuse... for such vitriol."
During the case, the court also heard details of text messages she exchanged with her agent Ms Watt, which appeared to show them discussing leaking stories about other celebrities and footballers to the press.
Wayne Rooney was among the witnesses who gave evidence and supported his wife in the courtroom every day. He told the court he was asked during Euro 2016 to have a word with Jamie Vardy to ask his wife to "calm down" as publicity grew around the tournament.
Text messages sent between the Vardys during the tournament were also released, along with the fake Instagram posts that sparked the entire trial.
In written submissions to the court, Vardy's barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC argued that while the case had been trivialised as "WAG Wars" it had had a "very profound" impact on his client's life, leading to "high intensity abuse and vilification".
The 40-year-old suffered "immense distress" as a result of Rooney's allegations and "had no choice" but to take her to court "to establish her innocence and vindicate her reputation", Mr Tomlinson said.
However, in the written argument for Rooney, 36, barrister David Sherborne said his client felt "absolutely confident" in the investigation she conducted to find the source of the leaks and that her "authentication was as thorough as many newsrooms".
Giving evidence, Rooney told the judge she had tried three times "in vain" to avoid the matter going to court.
The fake stories included Rooney travelling to Mexico for a baby "gender selection" procedure, planning a return to TV, and the basement flooding at her home.
"I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them," Rooney wrote in the internet post that quickly went viral.
"It's .......... Rebekah Vardy's account."
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