Rebekah Vardy will be able to use written summaries for four journalists at The Sun in her libel battle against Coleen Rooney, a High Court judge has said weeks before the expected start of the trial.
Mrs Rooney accused Mrs Vardy of leaking “false stories” about her private life to the media in October 2019 after carrying out a months-long “sting operation”.
She said she planted three stories about her travelling to Mexico to “see what this gender selection is all about”, returning to TV and the basement flooding in her new house.
The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney was dubbed “Wagatha Christie” when she publicly claimed her fellow footballer’s wife shared the fake stories she had posted on her personal Instagram account with The Sun newspaper.
Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denies the accusations and is suing Mrs Rooney for libel, with the full trial expected to begin next month.
In a ruling on Thursday, Mrs Justice Steyn allowed a number of written summaries – which state what witnesses are expected to say based on instructions from Mrs Vardy and her agent – in the name of journalists at The Sun to be part of the case.
This included summaries for Andy Halls, Simon Boyle and Michael Hamilton – the authors of the articles Mrs Rooney said she planted information about as part of her “sting operation”. The fourth journalist was named as Amy Brookbanks.
Mrs Justice Steyn said that Mrs Rooney claims “that the claimant enjoyed an ‘extremely close relationship’ with Mr Halls and Mr Boyle, and that they were people she directly communicated and interacted with on social media for several years.”
She continued: “I accept it is likely that they will be able to give relevant evidence regarding their relationships with the claimant and, subject to any question of source protection, whether she was a source of private information about the defendant and others published in their articles.”
The judge concluded it was in the “interests of justice” for Mrs Vardy to be able to serve the witness summaries from a total of four journalists.
David Price QC, for a number of journalists who have received requests to give evidence, said there was at least a prospect of some of them asking to have their witness summonses set aside, but no application was made at the previous hearing.
At the hearing earlier this month, Mrs Rooney’s barrister David Sherborne asked for some documents from News Group Newspapers – the publisher of The Sun – to be disclosed covering communications between Mrs Vardy, her agent and nine journalists at the newspaper.
Mrs Justice Steyn previously granted the request but only related to communications between Mrs Vardy, her agent Caroline Watt and Mr Halls.
Giving her reasons in Thursday’s judgment, she said it would be “appropriate and proportionate” to make the order.
She said: “The messages that it is evident exist between the claimant and Mr Halls, and Ms Watt and Mr Halls are likely to, in the sense that they may well, support the defendant’s case or adversely affect the claimant’s case.”
However, she said she had denied the request regarding the other eight journalists, finding it would be a “fishing expedition”.
At the hearing on April 13, the High Court heard Ms Watt could not give oral evidence at the trial next month due to medical reasons, and that she had also withdrawn her written evidence.
Mrs Rooney’s lawyers previously claimed that Mrs Vardy had leaked information to The Sun either directly or through Ms Watt “acting on her instruction or with her knowing approval”.
In Thursday’s ruling, Mrs Justice Steyn said Mrs Vardy “does not intend to adduce any evidence from any of those who have been summonsed going to the question whether Ms Watt provided any information for any of the articles in issue”.
The full libel trial between Mrs Vardy and Mrs Rooney is due to begin on May 9 and last seven days.