Irish Examiner view: Write, and then delete is useful advice for libel litigants

Lessons to be learnt from Vardy vs Rooney libel case
Irish Examiner view: Write, and then delete is useful advice for libel litigants

Rebekah Vardy leaves the Royal Courts Of Justice, London, as the high-profile libel battle between her and Coleen Rooney continues. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA

In ancient Rome, the common practice was to divert the attention of a raucous populace through the provision of “bread and circuses” (panem et circenses), a cynical phrase attributed to the poet Juvenal. 

These days circuses are generally viewed as unacceptable, and we all know the price of food. 

But there are always the libel courts for entertainment. And we have had two weeks’ worth of that with the Rebekah Vardy vs Coleen Rooney case where there has been speculation about the size of Peter Andre’s “chipolata” (the English/Australian singer has been collateral damage) and where a High Court judge received confirmation of what the initials FFS stood for. 

Mrs Justice Steyn has now retired to consider her judgement.

The case has been fascinating, in part, because of the overlap between modern technology and a 300-year-old legal precedent (Armory v Delamirie, centred on a missing gemstone). 

Because essential evidence was contained in a mobile phone owned by Vardy’s agent which fell into the North Sea, the court has been invited to rule that it is missing because of its importance.

Who knows? But much mirth has been generated around headlines and wordplay associated with the case, usually produced first on social media. 

An erudite article this weekend speculated about the impact of online platforms on relationships and privacy laws and the right to reputation. “You are what you tweet” warned the writer.

Perhaps the lesson to be drawn from this episode is to be found in a reworking of a title of a whodunnit which was not only one of Agatha Christie’s favourites but also gave us an early introduction to Miss Jane Marple when it was published in 1943. 

The Moving Finger (Writes), to which could be added the phrase “and then deletes”. Useful advice for libel litigants.

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