Rebekah Vardy vs Coleen Rooney: What is Libel under UK law and what are the punishments?

THE high profile libel trial between Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney is underway.

Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 4:20 pm

It comes after Mrs Rooney, 36, accused Mrs Vardy, 40, of leaking ‘false stories’ about her private life to the media in October 2019, after she said she carried 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 three fake stories she had posted on her personal Instagram account with The Sun newspaper.

The fake stories included Mrs Rooney travelling to Mexico for a ‘gender selection’ procedure, her planning to return to TV, and the basement flooding at her home.

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Wayne and Coleen Rooney arrive at the Royal Courts Of Justice, London, as the high-profile libel battle between Rebekah Vardy and Coleen Rooney is finally set to go to trial. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

In a now infamous post on Twitter and Instagram, Mrs Rooney wrote: ‘I have saved and screenshotted all the original stories which clearly show just one person has viewed them.

‘It’s ………. Rebekah Vardy’s account.’

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Colleen Rooney accuses Rebekah Vardy of leaking stories about her to the Sun

Mrs Vardy, who is married to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, denies the accusations and is suing Mrs Rooney for libel.

But what is libel and what are the punishments under UK law?

Here’s all you need to know:

What is libel?

Libel is a form of defamation.

Under UK law, a statement could be considered defamatory if it negatively impacts the reputation of another person in the ‘estimation of right-thinking members of society’.

For something to be considered libel, it has to be a defamatory statement which is: published (publication, for these purposes, is simply the communication of the defamatory matter to a third person); and in writing, print or some other permanent form.

The reason the Vardy vs Beckham trial is a libel one is because the claims made by Mrs Beckham were published on the social media app Twitter.

What is slander and is it different to libel?

Slander is another form of defamation and it is slightly different to libel.

For a defamatory statement to be consider slander it must: published and made orally or in some other transient form.

What are the defences against defamation claims?

Among the defences against accusations of defamation include:

- if the statement is true in substance and fact

- if the statement constituted fair comment on a matter of public interest

You can also defend yourself against defamation if the statement is protected by absolute privilege or qualified privilege.

What are the punishment for losing a libel case?

If you lose a libel case and it is proven that your statement was defamatory, then you could be forced to pay damages to the person who brought the case against you.