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Rebekah Vardy to pay Coleen Rooney £1.5 million for legal costs following Wagatha Christie court battle
4 October 2022, 14:20 | Updated: 4 October 2022, 16:43
Rebekah Vardy will have to pay £1.5 million towards Coleen Rooney’s legal costs following their 'Wagatha Christie' High Court libel battle.
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Mrs Vardy, 40, lost her libel claim against Mrs Rooney, 36, in July when the High Court ruled that Mrs Rooney's viral post accusing Mrs Vardy of leaking private information to the press was "substantially true".
In an order made public on Tuesday, the judge ruled that Mrs Vardy should pay 90 per cent of Mrs Rooney's costs - over £1.5 million.
She must also pay some legal costs of The Sun, on top of her own costs - meaning her final bill is likely to be over £3 million.
Mrs Rooney incurred total costs of more than £2 million, but £350,000 of those had already been racked up before the trial in May, so those were removed to produce a final figure of £1,667,860.
It is not known how much Mrs Vardy's own legal costs came to, although it is expected to be similar to Mrs Rooney's.
For The Sun, Mrs Vardy will need to pay costs incurred by seven journalists who were potential witnesses but did not give evidence - apart from a portion of their costs which Mrs Rooney has already been ordered to pay.
Mrs Vardy was ordered to pay £800,000 of the costs bill by 4pm on November 15.
Rebekah Vardy had more money than sense in Wagatha trial
Paul Lunt, partner and head of litigation at law firm Brabners, who represented Coleen Rooney, said the high costs were because Mrs Vardy "deliberately deleted or destroyed evidence".
"The High Court has today decided that Rebekah Vardy must pay Coleen Rooney's legal costs on an indemnity basis - the highest basis that the court could order," he said.
"The reasoning given for this decision is that there was a finding at trial that Rebekah Vardy had deliberately deleted or destroyed evidence.
"That behaviour falls outside the ordinary and reasonable conduct expected of a party in legal proceedings.
"This followed a separate finding regarding the loss of evidence that was in the possession of Rebekah Vardy's former agent, Caroline Watt.
"Coleen's pursuit of that evidence is a major reason why her legal costs increased substantially from the original estimates given to the court long before the start of the trial.
"Rebekah Vardy has been ordered to pay £800,000 to Coleen Rooney by November 15 as an interim payment until the final total she must pay is either agreed or decided upon by the court.
"Naturally, Rebekah will also be responsible for her own legal costs of bringing her failed libel action against Coleen.
"Today's decision also makes Rebekah liable to pay for legal costs incurred by certain journalists from News UK, publishers of The Sun newspaper, following her unsuccessful efforts to involve them in the proceedings."
Mrs Justice Steyn said the 10 per cent reduction in costs owed by Mrs Vardy was "appropriate" because of the "weak allegation" Mrs Rooney made that Mrs Vardy was one of the people behind The Sun's "Secret Wag" gossip column.
"In particular, the weak allegation that the claimant was the Secret Wag added considerably to the work by the claimant's representatives, the concession in respect of serious harm was made late, and the (Mrs Rooney's) public interest defence was unsuccessful," said the judge in the court order.
"However, given the defendant's success on the defence of truth which was at the heart of this claim, and the degree to which there was overlap between the issues, I consider that the appropriate reduction is 10 per cent."
The final figure of costs Mrs Vardy has to pay may be reduced further if she does not agree to pay the total incurred by Mrs Rooney and, at a later date, a court considers some of those costs to have been unreasonable.
Wagatha Christie trial 'fairly standard' process says barrister
The origins of 'Wagatha Christie' go all the way back to 2017, when The Sun newspaper ran a number of private stories about Mrs Rooney.
Over the next two years the wife of Wayne Rooney claimed she shared a number of false stories on her personal Instagram account and monitored who had seen them.
When those stories appeared in the press she then said she used a process of elimination to determine who must be leaking them.
In a dramatic post she announced Mrs Vary was the only person who could have leaked them, pinning the blame squarely on her.
Mrs Vardy, then pregnant with her fifth child, denied the allegations, saying lots of people had access to her Instagram account and so could have seen Mrs Rooney's posts.
She claimed the stress of the dispute caused her anxiety attacks, and in June 2020 it emerged she had launched libel proceedings against Mrs Rooney.
So began a high-profile court battle that made headlines around the world.
The week-long trial saw tears, denials and explosive revelations about the links between Mrs Vardy, her agent and tabloid journalists.
Messages between Mrs Vardy and Caroline Watt appeared to show her organising for a paparazzi photographer to get a picture of the wives and girlfriends outside a restaurant during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, as well as passing on information about Mrs Rooney's car crash.
A message also showed Ms Watt outright admitting to Mrs Vardy that she was leaking stories to the press about Mrs Rooney.
After a post from Mrs Rooney saying someone she trusted was leaking stories, Mr Watt wrote to Mrs Vardy: "It wasn't someone she trusted, it was me."
Asked why she didn't challenge her agent, Mrs Vardy replies that she was bathing her children and watching Dancing On Ice, so later continued gossiping with Ms Watt about Gemma Collins faceplanting on the show.