High Court ruling in Vardy v Rooney case emphasizes precision in witness statements and procedural compliance

Judgment on


In the High Court case of Rebekah Vardy v Coleen Rooney, the Hon. Mrs Justice Steyn DBE delivered a judgement addressing pre-trial matters of disclosure, witness summaries, and contentions regarding witness statements. The determination of these matters necessitated an examination of various legal principles, particularly those relating to civil procedure rules (CPR) on disclosure, witness statements, relevance, and the scope of permissible witness evidence.

Key Facts

The case involved a libel claim following an Instagram post by Coleen Rooney implicating Rebekah Vardy in leaking her private stories to the press. The court dealt with three main applications during the pre-trial review: (i) disclosure from a non-party, (ii) permission to serve witness summaries and relief from sanctions, and (iii) removal of certain content from witness statements.

The court applied CPR 31.17 to the request for disclosure from a non-party, which requires documents to likely support the applicant’s case or adversely affect the other party’s case (CPR 31.17(3)(a)), and disclosure must be necessary to dispose fairly of the claim or save costs (CPR 31.17(3)(b)). The court also referred to principles from Frankson v Secretary of State for the Home Department and Re Howglen Ltd concerning the caution required in making such orders.

For witness summaries, CPR 32.9 was discussed, emphasizing that permission for serving a witness summary is required when a witness statement cannot be obtained. The court analyzed this rule in light of Denton v TH White Ltd and Otuo v The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, emphasizing the need for a prospective application for serving witness summaries.

Concerning the content of witness statements, CPR 32.1 and 32.4 were key. The court also referenced the Queen’s Bench Guide 2022, supporting conciseness and exclusion of argumentative or inadmissible content. JD Wetherspoon plc v Harris and Aven v Orbis were cited to demonstrate the inappropriateness of including recitations of documents, commentary, and arguments in witness statements. Lastly, Wilkinson v West Coast Capital illuminated the cautious approach required at the pre-trial stage regarding the relevance of evidence.


The disclosure application against News Group Newspapers Ltd was granted in relation to communications with journalist Andrew Halls but refused for other named journalists. The decision was based on the likelihood of documented communication between Halls, Vardy, and Watt surmised from WhatsApp messages.

Permission to serve witness summaries and relief from sanctions were granted retrospectively for Mr. Halls, Mr. Boyle, Mr. Hamilton, and Ms. Brookbanks, as their potential witness evidence related directly to issue articles. However, for Ms. Dale and Mr. Moyes, permission was denied due to a lack of demonstrated relevance.

Parts of Coleen Rooney’s witness statement were ordered to be removed where they involved unnecessary commentary on disclosed documents, irrelevant material, and unpleaded allegations, as seen in JD Wetherspoon plc v Harris. The court rejected the claimant’s application for removal in cases where the defendant’s current belief was relevant or where removal would be disproportionate and unnecessary.


In analysis, this judgment hinges on a meticulous application of the CPR, focusing primarily on maintaining the integrity of the trial process by ensuring that only relevant, admissible, and direct evidence is presented in witness statements. It underscores the courts’ continuing efforts to restrict the scope of witness statements to direct evidence and foreclose any tendency to introduce commentary or argument. The decision also demonstrates the critical role of procedural compliance when seeking relief from sanctions or permission to serve alternative procedural documents such as witness summaries. The rulings portray the judiciary’s commitment to the efficient administration of justice, with an equitable approach to the admission of evidence and due consideration to the proportionality and relevance of applications made during pre-trial proceedings.