Rebekah Vardy’s ‘Wagatha Christie’ lawyers worked on Christmas Day, court is told

Rebekah Vardy leaving court on the final day of the libel trial in May 2022
Rebekah Vardy leaving court on the final day of the libel trial in May 2022 - Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Rebekah Vardy ran up massive costs in her ‘Wagatha Christie’ battle with Coleen Rooney because her legal team even worked on Christmas Day, a court has heard.

In the latest twist in the case, Mrs Rooney, 38, went to the High Court on Tuesday to challenge Mrs Vardy’s £325,000 costs for pre-trial hearings in December 2021 and February 2022.

Mrs Rooney’s legal team told the court the size of the bill Mrs Vardy ran up before the hearings was “wholly excessive and disproportionate”.

And it emerged that her solicitors and barristers were even working on Christmas, Boxing and New Year’s Days.

Mrs Vardy went on to lose her high-profile libel claim against Mrs Rooney in July 2022, when Mrs Justice Steyn ruled that Mrs Rooney’s viral social media post accusing her of leaking her private information to the press was “substantially true”.

In an order in October the same year, the judge ruled that Mrs Vardy should pay £800,000 of Mrs Rooney’s £2 million costs as well as an estimated £1.5 million of her own.

Viral social media post led to battle

The judge imposed the punitive charge partly because the court found that Mrs Vardy had deliberately destroyed WhatsApp messages and other evidence relevant to the trial.

At the heart of the libel claim was a viral social media post Mrs Rooney, the wife of former Manchester United star Wayne Rooney, made in October 2019.

In it, she accused Mrs Vardy, 42, the wife of her husband’s former England team-mate Jamie Vardy, of leaking her private information. She revealed she had come to that conclusion after a months-long “sting operation” involving planting fake stories on her private Instagram profile.

Three of the stories, involving her travelling to Mexico for a “gender selection” procedure, planning a return to TV, and the basement flooding at the Rooney family home, went on to appear in The Sun.

Coleen Rooney and her husband Wayne leaving the Royal Courts of Justice at the end of the libel trial
Coleen Rooney and her husband Wayne leaving the Royal Courts of Justice at the end of the libel trial - Hannah McKay/Reuters

Mrs Vardy is expected to challenge the amount she has been ordered to pay to Mrs Rooney later this year.

But at Tuesday’s separate hearing, it was Mrs Rooney who sought to have the significantly smaller costs she had been ordered to pay Mrs Vardy for the pre-trial hearing reduced by Senior Costs Judge Andrew Gordon-Saker.

The specialist judge is appointed to assess the costs and expenses incurred during civil cases, rule on how much successful parties can recover, and even reduce the costs if they are deemed to be unreasonable.

Robin Dunne, Mrs Rooney’s counsel, told Judge Gordon-Saker that the costs presented by Mrs Vardy were “excessive”, with “a significant amount of duplication” in the work carried out by her legal team.

Costs ‘unreasonable and disproportionate’

Mr Dunne stated: “The costs are wholly unreasonable and disproportionate, even taking into account the complexity of the issues involved. These should be reduced to a reasonable amount. There are obvious reductions to be made.”

But Jamie Carpenter KC, Mrs Vardy’s counsel, rejected the claim her £325,000 legal bill – of which 20 per cent will have to be paid by Mrs Rooney – was excessive.

He told the court: “It shouldn’t be surprising there’s a lot of work in this bill. There was a huge amount of work to do under enormous time pressure.”

Mr Carpenter said this included preparing witness statements, searching for and redacting social media posts, writing legal letters to Instagram and drafting a defence.

He said the timing of the second hearing in February 2022 had unavoidably required barristers and solicitors, including Hugh Tomlinson KC, Mrs Vardy’s trial barrister, to work during the festive holiday period, including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

‘Nobody was doing work they didn’t need to’

“The question is was it a reasonable process and did it take a reasonable amount of time?” he told the court. “There was barely a day when work wasn’t being done.

“ Nobody was doing any work they didn’t need to. Nobody was ‘cost building’. This was work that absolutely had to be done and it was a huge amount of work.”

In the libel trial, Mrs Justice Steyn ruled in Mrs Rooney’s favour, finding it was “likely” that Caroline Watt, Mrs Vardy’s former agent, had passed information to The Sun and that she “knew of and condoned this behaviour”.

The judge added that Mrs Vardy had “actively” engaged, “directing Ms Watt to the private Instagram account, sending her screenshots of Mrs Rooney’s posts, drawing attention to items of potential interest to the press, and answering additional queries raised by the press via Ms Watt”.

The hearing is due to conclude on Wednesday. Neither Mrs Rooney nor Mrs Vardy were present in court.