07:50, November 19 129 0 theguardian.com

2020-11-19 07:50:05
Rebekah Vardy suing Coleen Rooney for libel as last resort, court told

Rebekah Vardy has brought a libel action against Coleen Rooney only as a last resort to “vindicate her reputation”, the high court has been told at a preliminary hearing of the high-profile dispute between the wives of two England footballers.

Vardy has faced “widespread hostility and abuse” as a result of being accused of leaking details about the private life of her former friend, her barrister told the court on Thursday.

Last year Rooney claimed Vardy had been leaking stories from her private Instagram account to the Sun newspaper. Rooney, 34, is married to Wayne Rooney, and Vardy, 38, to Jamie Vardy.

Rooney claimed she had spent five months slowly reducing the number of people who could see her updates on Instagram stories until only Vardy’s account remained. Rooney then posted a fictitious announcement on Instagram reporting that the basement of her new house had been flooded.

When the flood appeared as a news story in the Sun, she went public with the accusation that Vardy was responsible for leaking personal information to the press, earning Rooney the nickname “Wagatha Christie” for her sleuthing.

Opening the hearing before Mr Justice Warby in the high court, Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Vardy, said: “Mrs Rooney has something like 2 million followers. The post [by Rooney accusing Vardy] has been liked by something like half a million people. Given the sensational matter of the allegations, it has been republished hundreds of thousands of times [in the media].

“The post accused Mrs Vardy of either leaking her Instagram posts or being reasonably suspected of having done so. Mrs Vardy has suffered very widespread hostility and abuse. She was seven months pregnant at the time, which increased the stress.”

Tomlinson said the media had treated the saga as entertainment, but for Vardy it had not been entertaining. “Whatever leaks there were did not come from her. As a last resort she has brought this action to vindicate her reputation.”

In libel cases, Tomlinson added, “the intention of the writer is irrelevant. What matters is what the ordinary reader understands it to mean on Twitter or Instagram.”

He asked the court to impose a stay on the case until 8 February to see whether the two parties could resolve their dispute through mediation following the outcome of this preliminary hearing.

If they fail to agree a settlement, the dispute would be expected to go to a full trial next summer.