Partner Jon Oakley analyses the outcome of the infamous "Wagatha Christie" libel case
Reputation Partner, Jon Oakley comments in the Daily Express regarding the much publicised case of Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy.
In October 2019, Colleen Rooney made headlines by accusing Rebekah Vardy (via Twitter) of leaking stories about her personal life to The Sun newspaper. Ms Vardy subsequently issued proceedings for libel. The case, dubbed ‘Wagatha Christie’, went to trial earlier this year, generating an extraordinary amount of press attention in the process. Mrs Justice Steyn handed down her judgment at the end of last week, finding that on the balance of probability Vardy had leaked stories concerning Rooney to the press. Ms Vardy now faces the prospect of paying Ms Rooney’s legal costs (in addition to her own), and the question of if and how her reputation can be restored following this judgment.
"Colleen Rooney was successful in this case because the Judge found that her “reveal” post was substantially true. This was a complete defence to the claim brought by Ms Vardy.
In coming to her verdict, the Judge believed the evidence that was given by Ms Rooney, and others who gave evidence in her favour including her husband Wayne, finding that they were credible witnesses. On the other hand, the Judge was critical of the evidence given by Ms Vardy, saying that it was necessary to treat it “with significant caution”. The Judge also found that, in order to conceal evidence that would otherwise have been damaging to her case, Ms Vardy had deliberately deleted various WhatsApp messages with her agent, Caroline Watt, and that Ms Watt had deliberately dropped a phone in the sea. In any legal case these would be extremely serious findings, and are a further significant factor why Ms Rooney ultimately won.
I suspect that much of the coverage of this case will say that Ms Vardy has a disaster on her hands that is entirely of her own making. After all, she faces a legal bill that will likely total several million pounds. She has been found to be a less than credible witness by the Judge, and rehabilitating her reputation will be no easy task, to say the least. Meanwhile, Ms Rooney emerges from this with her reputation intact – if not enhanced – as a result of winning.
It follows that many will say that Ms Vardy should never should have brought this case to trial in the first place. After all, at the best of times cases such as this are expensive, risky, and mean that a certain amount of ‘dirty laundry’ will be aired in public. However, sometimes people feel so strongly about what has been said about them that, even after being advised of all of the risks, they feel that they have no alternative other than to have their day in court."
This comment was first published in The Daily Express here (£)