UK

Rebekah Vardy’s barrister ‘worked on Christmas Day’ for Wagatha case, court told

The so-called Wagatha Christie case has returned to the High Court for a specialist judge to consider costs.

Rebekah Vardy arriving at the Royal Courts Of Justice, London, during the libel case
Rebekah Vardy arriving at the Royal Courts Of Justice, London, during the libel case (Aaron Chown/PA)

Rebekah Vardy’s leading barrister worked on the Wagatha Christie libel case on Christmas Day, the High Court has heard as Coleen Rooney’s lawyers contest an allegedly “unreasonable” legal bill.

Mrs Vardy, 42, lost her high-profile libel claim against Mrs Rooney, 38, in July 2022 when Mrs Justice Steyn ruled that her viral social media post accusing Mrs Vardy of leaking her private information to the press was “substantially true”.

In an order from October the same year, the judge ruled that Mrs Vardy, the wife of footballer Jamie Vardy, should pay 90% of Mrs Rooney’s costs, with an initial £800,000 then ordered to be paid.

The high-profile case has returned to court more than two years after the trial for a hearing over some of Mrs Vardy’s pre-trial costs which Mrs Rooney is set to pay.

Her lawyers are challenging parts of a bill of around £325,000, of which 20% will have to be paid by Mrs Rooney, the wife of former footballer Wayne Rooney.

Coleen and Wayne Rooney both gave evidence
Coleen and Wayne Rooney both gave evidence (Yui Mok/PA)

Mrs Rooney’s costs are expected to be considered at a hearing in October and neither woman appeared at the High Court on Tuesday for the first hearing.

Robin Dunne, for Mrs Rooney, said that Mrs Vardy’s team had accrued “unreasonable and disproportionate” costs before the trial.

Some of the costs related to bids made at a hearing in February 2022 for further documents and information from both sides, as well as Mrs Rooney’s bid to have legal action against Mrs Vardy’s former agent heard alongside the libel claim.

Mrs Rooney’s lawyers previously claimed that Mrs Vardy leaked information to The Sun either directly or through her agent Caroline Watt “acting on her instruction or with her knowing approval”.

Her bid was denied, with Ms Watt’s legal bill of £65,000 previously paid by Mrs Rooney.

Mr Dunne said they were “significant applications”, adding that “we fully accept there needed to be work done”, but that Mrs Vardy’s bill for around eight weeks worth of work was “disproportionate”.

Mrs Vardy’s lawyers are opposing the bid to reduce the costs bill.

Jamie Carpenter KC, for Mrs Vardy, said there was “barely a day” when her lawyers were not working at that time.

Rebekah Vardy brought the claim for libel
Rebekah Vardy brought the claim for libel (James Manning/PA)

The specialist costs court in London heard that Mrs Vardy’s trial barrister, Hugh Tomlinson KC, had “worked on the case on Christmas Day while he was on holiday”.

Mr Carpenter said that many of the lawyers worked Boxing Day and the bank holidays around Christmas on Mrs Vardy’s case.

He continued: “No one was costs building.

“This was work that absolutely had to be done and it was a huge amount of work.”

The hearing before Senior Costs Judge Andrew Gordon-Saker is due to conclude on Wednesday.

In the viral social media post in October 2019 at the heart of the libel claim, Mrs Rooney said she had carried out a months-long “sting operation” and accused Mrs Vardy of leaking information about her private life to the press.

Mrs Rooney publicly claimed Mrs Vardy’s account was the source behind three stories in The Sun newspaper featuring fake details she had posted on her private Instagram profile – featuring her travelling to Mexico for a “gender selection” procedure, her planning to return to TV, and the basement flooding at her home.

Following the high-profile trial, Mrs Justice Steyn ruled in Mrs Rooney’s favour, finding it was “likely” that Ms Watt 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”.