– Rebekah Vardy
Mrs Justice Steyn made a number of findings about Rebekah Vardy, the footballer’s wife who brought the claim, and her evidence, over the seven-day trial.
In her ruling, Mrs Justice Steyn said that while it was “likely” that Mrs Vardy’s agent at the time, Caroline Watt, “undertook the direct act” of passing the information to The Sun, Mrs Vardy “knew of and condoned this behaviour”.
She said that Mrs Vardy also “actively engaged” in the behaviour, directing Ms Watt to Mrs Rooney’s private Instagram account, sending her screenshots and directing her agent to particular items.
The judge also found that Ms Watt and Mrs Vardy “deliberately deleted or destroyed evidence” in the case, with them having a “pattern of working together to give the press information”.
Mrs Justice Steyn noted that Mrs Vardy found the process of giving evidence stressful and that she and her family had suffered “vile abuse”.
However, the judge also said that significant parts of Mrs Vardy’s evidence were “not credible”, sometimes “manifestly inconsistent” with documentary evidence, “evasive” at other times and she was “generally unwilling to make factual concessions, however implausible her evidence”.
She further found it was “probable” that Mrs Vardy was “seeking to press Mrs Rooney into settling a case that would have appeared to be fatally weakened, and so avoid a trial” by trying to use witness summaries on behalf of journalists that wrongly claimed they would say neither Mrs Vardy nor Ms Watt were the source of the articles.
Mrs Justice Steyn later said in her judgment that Mrs Vardy made a “deliberate choice” to sit behind Mrs Rooney at a match during the Euro 2016 tournament, rejecting her evidence as “not credible”.
“I do not accept she would have happily blurred into the background,” Mrs Justice Steyn added.
However, Mrs Justice Steyn said that the evidence connecting Mrs Vardy to the short-lived “Secret Wag” column in The Sun was “thin” and provided no support to Mrs Rooney’s truth defence.
Mrs Justice Steyn also did accept that Mrs Vardy’s regret about giving a 2004 interview to the News of the World about an alleged sexual encounter with Peter Andre was genuine.
– Caroline Watt
Mrs Vardy’s friend and former agent, Ms Watt was described as “a vital witness to the matters in issue, whose absence is striking”, by the High Court judge.
Mrs Justice Steyn found that Mrs Vardy provided information to Ms Watt in the knowledge that Ms Watt would then give it to a journalist at The Sun newspaper.
She also said that while Mrs Vardy made decisions about when to provide details to the press, “Ms Watt acted on her instructions”.
The judge said the evidence was “wholly inconsistent with the thesis that Ms Watt was acting alone, without Ms Vardy’s knowledge, consent or approval”.
Mrs Justice Steyn also said it could be inferred that Mrs Vardy and Ms Watt “together leaked more information from the private Instagram account over the course of 2017-2019” than the eight posts in the libel case.
The judge later found that Mrs Vardy chose not to call Ms Watt to give evidence partly because she knew her evidence “would be shown to be untrue”.
Ms Watt had been due to give evidence in support of Mrs Vardy, however she withdrew her evidence pre-trial, with the court told it was due to health concerns.
She said: “I am compelled to the conclusion that the primary reason Ms Watt was so very reluctant to give evidence, and has suffered adversely from the pressure to do so, was that she knew that to a large extent the evidence in her statements was untrue.”
Ms Watt was the owner of a phone which fell into the North Sea following a preliminary hearing, shortly after an order was made for the device to be inspected.
In a witness statement, Ms Watt said the loss was a “genuine accident” caused by choppy waters and a weakness in her hand while on a boat trip in Scotland.
However, Mrs Justice Steyn said: “The timing is striking… the likelihood that the loss Ms Watt describes was accidental is slim.”
– Coleen Rooney
Mrs Rooney, the footballer’s wife defending the claim, was described as “an honest and reliable witness” by Mrs Justice Steyn.
She said in her ruling: “She sought to answer the questions she was asked without any evasion, and without conveying any sense that she was giving pre-prepared answers.”
Mrs Justice Steyn accepted Mrs Rooney’s evidence that she had not told anyone about her “sting operation” or the fabricated posts, until she published the viral reveal post in October 2019.
– Wayne Rooney
The High Court judge said that Mr Rooney “gave honest and reliable evidence” during his time in the witness box.
Mrs Justice Steyn accepted his evidence that in 2016, then-England manager Roy Hodgson had asked Mr Rooney to ask Jamie Vardy to speak to his wife about her media appearances.
“Mr Rooney’s evidence that he was asked to have this conversation with Mr Vardy, and he did so, although it was an awkward matter for him to raise, came across as truthful,” she said.
– Jamie Vardy
Mrs Vardy’s husband did not give evidence at the trial and attended with his wife for one day.
The court was told that Mr Vardy had denied claims in an article in The Independent that said Mr Rooney “held talks” with Mr Vardy over Mrs Vardy’s media profile in 2016.
Mrs Justice Steyn said: “I bear in mind Mr Vardy’s contemporaneous denial in his message to Mrs Vardy, but that is more likely to reflect an understandable choice by Mr Vardy not to upset his wife by passing on what he may have considered to be an uncalled for reproach than any dishonesty or inaccuracy in the evidence Mr Rooney gave in court.”
She continued: “As Mr Rooney readily acknowledged, he has no means of knowing whether Mr Vardy told his wife about the conversation he had with Mr Vardy. It appears likely, given Mrs Vardy’s reaction to seeing the article in the Independent, that Mr Vardy did not do so.”