During the week-long Depp/Heard defamation trial intermission (objection! hearsay! sustained!), we are once again being treated to a local celebrity defamation action in the form of the long-running social media dispute, 'Wagatha Christie' (we have been parched since Depp left our shores to take his legal trials elsewhere).
But what an incredible waste of Court resources! By now it is fairly well-established that Mrs. Rooney's well-placed faux stories, which mysteriously appeared in the pages of The Sun, were secured by way of a watchful eye from Mrs. Vardy's Instagram account. I underline the word account (twice!) because this is ultimately the word all of this is going to turn on. Isn't it fun when legal cases all turn on one word, as they so often do?
I will stick my neck out and predict that Mrs. Vardy will succeed in her defamation action. The surrounding press commentary, which can rarely be accurately predicted until the witnesses (and their tears) hit the stand, seems quite ready to put Mrs. Vardy in the public stockade. It's her account, after all.
Miss Watts, close friend and agent, who is alleged to have been the leaker, is too "fragile" (or traumatised) to go anywhere near the Courtroom and the smoking gun/phone is in the North Sea (my favourite line of questioning from Mr. Sherborne so far is certainly - the phone was lying “at the bottom of the sea in Davy Jones’s locker” to which Mrs. Vardy replied “Who is Davy Jones?” You couldn't script it!) Furthermore, Mrs. Vardy has leaked to the press before - surely she's leaking now (they cry) no matter what kind of personal and "in" joke was in play between Vardy and Watts as two chums.
The reason I say Vardy stands to succeed is because of the meaning determination in November 2020 by Mr. Justice Warby (now Lord Justice Warby). You see, it is a rite of passage in defamation actions to have a trial on a preliminary issue on meaning. If you can establish whether it is defamatory or not early, and at low cost, then so much the better.
The meaning of Rooney's Instagram post/statement: “I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them. It’s ………. Rebekah Vardy’s account” (I'll resist underlining it that time as it's a quote) was said by the Court to be defamatory of Mrs. Vardy by implying that she is the culprit and that the "sting" of the allegation is not removed by the word account. It was also said that "indeed, the element of suspense introduced by the multiple dots seems to [the Court] designed to raise expectations of a dramatic revelation."
And there we have it - the allegation by Mrs. Rooney was that these leaks to the press were from Mrs. Vardy. Due to the missing evidence and the witness evidence that Vardy has given (and now finished as of yesterday), it all supports that these were instead the actions of Miss Watts who has been said this week to have been publicly... "thrown under the bus". All that stands to be tested is whether the Court believes Mrs. Vardy was "in on it". I don't think there is enough evidence to find that she was and therefore the finding must be that she has been defamed.
If you have a reputation management, defamation or libel dispute and need information or advice, please get in touch with me.
Mrs Vardy is suing Mrs Rooney over claims that she was responsible for leaking stories from Mrs Rooney’s private Instagram account. Mrs Rooney posted on social media that she had been betrayed by someone she trusted. The court heard that Mrs Vardy received a message from her agent, Caroline Watt, that read: "It wasn’t someone she trusted. It was me," followed by a laughter emoji.