Wagatha Christie: Rebekah Vardy accused of running up 'unreasonable' £320,000 legal bill

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Rebekah Vardy’s top barrister spent Christmas Day working on the “Wagatha Christie” legal battle, the High Court has heard, as Coleen Rooney accuses her rival WAG of running up a “disproportionate and unreasonable” £320,000 legal bill.

The two women faced off in 2022 after Rooney, 38, accused Vardy, 42, of leaking stories about her to The Sun newspaper, with a judge ultimatelyconcluding the claim was “substantially true”.

Vardy had taken the disastrous decision to sue Rooney, and was then left facing a seven-figure bill for the costs of the libel trial.

In November 2022, Vardy, the wife of Leicester striker Jamie Vardy, was told to pay an initial £800,000 and was made liable for 90 per cent of Rooney’s estimated £2 million costs.

The two sides are set to return to court in October for a three-day battle over the final cost of the trial and how much Vardy should ultimately have to pay.

On Tuesday, lawyers for both sides faced off in front of a judge over legal bills accrued before the trial started.

Rooney has been ordered to pay 20 per cent of the costs of a two-day pre-trial hearing, but says Vardy’s preparation costs - valued at £320,000 - are excessive.

“I don’t say this was inconsequential, they were significant applications and we fully accept there needed to be work done and taken seriously”, said Robin Dunne, a lawyer for Rooney.

“But we are looking at a period of around eight-and-a-half weeks’ work where counsel was involved, very significantly, in almost every element of this matter.”

Vardy had hired top law firm Kingsley Napley to represent her in the libel battle, as well as leading barrister Hugh Tomlinson KC and a top junior barrister Sara Mansoori.

Opposing a bid for the costs bill to be cut, Jamie Carpenter KC, for Vardy said there is “literally barely a day” when work was not being done.

He pointed out top KC Hugh Tomlinson “actually worked on the case on Christmas day while he was on holiday”, and his colleagues worked on Boxing Day.

“Counsel were working on this on New Year’s Day”, he said. “It really was all hands to the pump.

“No one was costs building, this was work that absolutely had to be done.”

Vardy’s legal bill ahead of the February 2022 hearing covered 558 hours of work, which Mr Dunne characterised as “excessive and disproportionate”.

He pointed out legal costs for a different preliminary hearing in the case had been capped at £25,000, while Vardy’s total bill for the libel case reached just over £1 million.

He said it was “unthinkable” that the court would have allowed Vardy to run up the “disproportionate and unreasonable” costs which are at the centre of this dispute.

But Mr Carpenter argued senior barristers had to be involved in a huge amount of work being done to be ready for the hearing.

The hearing in February 2022 tackled disclosure requests made by both WAGs, the extent of Instagram searches that needed to take place, directions for expert evidence, and the question of whether Vardy’s former agent, Caroline Watt, should be added to the libel trial as a party.

Mr Carpenter said Vardy’s team had a “huge amount of work to do under enormous pressure”.

“Both sides clearly regarded (the hearing) as hugely important”, he said.

“The issues of disclosure were at the heart of the case.”

The Wagatha Christie feud began in 2019 when Rooney posted the results on social media of a months-long investigation into the source of leaks about her private life.

She had suspected one of her friends was responsible, and began posting fake stories while whittling down the number of people who could see them on Instagram.

When bogus stories about a flood in her home and gender selection for her child were leaked, Rooney felt able to identify the culprit, concluding her post with the words: “It’s……….Rebekah Vardy’s account.”

As Rooney attracted the “Wagatha Christie” tag for her homemade sleuthing, Vardy immediate launched a furious offensive against the claim, insisting she had never leaked stories to the media and criticising Rooney for going public with the accusation.

But her decision to sue in the High Court brought messages between herself and Ms Watt into the public domain.

During the trial she likened Rooney to a “school bully” for the social media accusation, and broke down in tears as she described the torrent of online abuse she had faced at a time when she was heavily pregnant.

But Vardy also had to face questions about whether she had leaked information to the media about her husband’s teammates Danny Drinkwater and Riyad Mahrez, as well as texts with Ms Watt branding Rooney an “attention seeker” and “desperate”.

Vardy claimed she was “absolutely just joking” when she told her agent to leak a story about a married TV star’s affair, but accepted she had tried to pass information on Drinkwater’s drink drive arrest to a journalist, telling Ms Watt: “I want paying for this”.

She was also accused of staging paparazzi photos without asking for permission from other England team WAGs.

When Rooney complained about a car crash story ending up in the news, Ms Watt messaged Vardy to say the source of the leak “wasn’t someone she trusted. It was me”.

In the final judgment of Mrs Justice Steyn, Vardy also came in for heavy criticism over the absence of masses of computer and phone data, which she said had been corrupted or lost, and Ms Watt claimed to have dropped her phone off the side of a boat and into the North Sea.

Specialist costs judge Andrew Gordon-Saker is overseeing the latest hearing, which is expected to run into Wednesday.

He is being taken through detailed explanations for Vardy’s costs bills, picking over her contact with lawyers and PR agents and the way her case was prepared.

The hearing continues.