The High Court in London heard agent Caroline Watt could not give oral evidence at the trial next month.
13 April 2022
Coleen Rooney’s barrister has claimed that “only half the story” in the libel battle between her and Rebekah Vardy can be investigated at the upcoming High Court 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”.
The wife of former England star Wayne Rooney was dubbed “Wagatha Christie” when she publicly claimed her fellow footballer’s wife shared 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.
Mrs Rooney’s lawyers previously claimed that Mrs Vardy had leaked information to The Sun either directly or through her friend and agent Caroline Watt “acting on her instruction or with her knowing approval”.
On Wednesday, the High Court in London heard Ms Watt could not give oral evidence at the trial next month.
In written arguments, Hugh Tomlinson QC, for Mrs Vardy, said: “The claimant served a witness statement of Caroline Watt with the intention of calling Ms Watt to give oral evidence at the trial.
“The claimant’s solicitors were, however, aware that Ms Watt was in a fragile state and had been expressing serious concerns about giving evidence.”
He added that a consultant forensic psychiatrist has produced a report which concluded Ms Watt is not fit to provide oral evidence at the High Court trial.
“In these circumstances, it is clear that Ms Watt cannot be called to give evidence,” Mr Tomlinson concluded.
David Sherborne, for Mrs Rooney, argued Ms Watt is a “key witness”.
In written arguments, Mr Sherborne said: “The defendant’s position is that Ms Watt’s concern about giving evidence is because of the realisation that her evidence is untrue and therefore she is scared of being tested upon it.”
On Wednesday, the barrister told the court that Ms Watt had revoked her permission for Mrs Vardy to use her witness statement during the trial.
He also said Ms Watt had withdrawn a waiver she previously made, which would have allowed journalists at The Sun to say whether or not she was the source of any of the allegedly leaked stories.
Mr Sherborne continued: “The revoking of her waiver and her removal of permission for the witness statement to be used can only have one reason.
“That is because she realises that it is untrue … There is no other reason why she would revoke the waiver for source protection.”
Mr Sherborne argued he would be limited in questioning any journalists from The Sun who attend the trial about Ms Watt.
“It puts the final nail in the coffin of this being a fair trial. Only half the story can be investigated,” the barrister concluded.
Mr Tomlinson said Mr Sherborne’s complaint was “wholly misconceived”.
He added that arguments about why Ms Watt withdrew permission for the witness statement were “a submission he can make in due course” and that “we do not know on this side why she has changed her mind”.
Mr Sherborne also asked for some documents from News Group Newspapers – the publisher of The Sun – to be disclosed.
Mr Sherborne said this focused on communications between Mrs Vardy, her agent Caroline Watt and nine journalists working for The Sun newspaper in which the two women were allegedly “passing on stories or information relating to other parties”.
He claimed disclosure linked to Mrs Vardy in the legal dispute had been hit by “a series of unfortunate events” which meant the bid for information from the journalists was a “last resort”.
Mr Tomlinson said Mrs Vardy was “neutral” on the request for documents, adding: “Rebekah Vardy has nothing to hide.”
He later argued that “many of the building blocks Mr Sherborne relies upon are made of sand”.
Adam Wolanski QC, representing News Group Newspapers, labelled Mrs Rooney’s bid for disclosure from The Sun journalists as a “fishing expedition”.
Mrs Justice Steyn granted Mrs Rooney’s request for the documents from News Group Newspapers but only related to communications between Mrs Vardy and Ms Watt and The Sun journalist Andrew Halls.
The judge, who will hear the full trial, reserved her judgment on other matters until a later date.