Some take-away’s from the “Wagatha Christie” trial

09 Aug 2022
Bhavini Kalaria

Business Disputes, Dispute Resolution

The tweet by Coleen Rooney which concluded with.. ‘It’s ………. Rebekah Vardy’s account,’ will go down in history as one of the most memorable tweets of all time – right up there with Trump’s “covfefe,” tweet or more recently Elon Musk’s “Jack off the board” offering.

Given the highly public nature of this platform – used by celebrities, politicians and businessmen to both personalise and promote themselves, Twitter attracts millions of subscribers. In this context, it is unsurprising that threat of legal action is never too far off.

Defamation cases have found that the account holder will be liable for defamatory tweets even when someone else has created the tweet; that defamation can occur even when a tweet is deleted shortly after publication, leading to difficulties in assessing damages and a raft of cases highlighting the difficulties in identifying those making defamatory statements.

These issues did not arise in the Vardy v Rooney defamation trial. Vardy claimed that Rooney had defamed her by publicly identifying her as the leaker of personal stories to the tabloid press. There were no difficulties in identifying the parties, the words remained available for all to see. Already the sting operation, it’s background and celebrity status made this a juicy bit of celebrity gossip – a whodunnit with glamour.

In the end Vardy lost her defamation claim against Rooney. The court found that the allegations made by Rooney were substantially true and Vardy now faces huge costs following on from this. Rather than vindicating herself, Vardy has lost her reputation and exposed dubious practices between celebrities and the media based on the sale of personal information.

The case itself was not legally complex – there is no new case law established, and to most observers it looks like a claim where the lawyers would have warned the claimant of the serious risks involved. Defamation occurs when a person or organisation uses language which has a ruinous effect on the reputation of another person or business. This is divided into two parts – slander (which is spoken defamation) and libel (which is written). Twitter, given its reach and position as a platform means that any tweets which are untrue have the potential to be libellous.

Nevertheless, here are some take away’s:

  1. Losing evidence is not a good look: both Vardy and her agent lost essential WhatsApp messages – this did not go down too well. Litigation is serious business and judges will not take kindly to evidence being destroyed or lost. In most cases, consequences will follow and negative conclusions can be drawn in such cases.
  2. Defamation is not rocket science, but it is expensive: those without deep pockets cannot afford to defend their reputation, and those that that do so can risk losing money and reputations. The losing party normally has to pay the costs of the winning party – but even then it is unlikely that all of the costs will be paid by the losing party. So, beware!
  3. Celebrity sleuthing is a whole new genre – but that doesn’t mean that allegations can be made without a right of reply first. On this point, Rooney lost. Where members of the public are making allegations, they should first put these to the person making the offensive remarks before publicly calling out the untruth.

As noted above, businesses can be held responsible for libellous tweets, even if these are written and originated by a third party on their behalf. Given the plethora of platforms through which organisation now try and reach their customers, it is really important that there are clear lines of responsibility and guidelines around what can and cannot be written about another person or organisation.

For more information please contact Bhavini Kalaria, Partner, Dispute Resolution & International at