Sheffield & South Yorkshire

UKIP 'can afford' to pay Labour MP's £175,000 damage costs

Jane Collins MEP Image copyright PA
Image caption Jane Collins made allegations against three Labour MPs at a UKIP conference before the 2015 general election

UKIP can afford to pay the £175,000 legal costs over a defamation case despite earlier concerns over finances, the party's interim leader has said.

The case was brought by three Rotherham Labour MPs over comments made by UKIP MEP Jane Collins about the Rotherham child abuse scandal.

UKIP leader Gerard Batten allayed fears of bankruptcy and said the party's bank balance was "in the black".

The party has less than 10 days to pay the bill.

On Monday High Court Judge Justice Warby ordered UKIP to make the £175,000 payment towards costs incurred by Rotherham MPs Sir Kevin Barron, John Healey and Sarah Champion.

Image caption UKIP interim leader Gerard Batten said the party was "making arrangements" to pay the legal bill after it raised donations from members

Mr Batten said: "When I took [the party] over it was on the brink, we were about to go into the red and we would have gone insolvent and actually been put out of business.

"I took immediate action. I've written to the members asking for money, we've fundraised in other ways and we're now in the black."

Mr Batten said the party would pay the legal costs and was "making arrangements to do that now".

When asked about Ms Collins's future in the party, he replied she was "still one of our MEPs and I've just appointed her as a spokesperson on animal welfare".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The three Rotherham MPs - Sir Kevin Barron, Sarah Champion and John Healey - were awarded £54,000 each in damages in 2017

A hearing in February ruled that UKIP took a "deliberate, informed and calculated" decision to ensure the defamation action brought by the three MPs against Ms Collins should not be settled before the 2015 general election.

A joint statement from the Labour MPs said: "UKIP's actions behind the scenes forced the costs of this case to soar and compounded the damage from Jane Collins' unfounded and hurtful allegations.

Sir Kevin is Labour MP for Rother Valley, Ms Champion is Rotherham MP and Mr Healey represents the Wentworth and Dearne constituency.

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