A Ukip MEP who was sued over remarks she made about Rotherham’s three Labour MPs in relation to the town’s child abuse scandal has made an attempt to avoid paying compensation.
Sir Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley, John Healey, who represents Wentworth and Dearne, and Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, brought High Court proceedings against Jane Collins, MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.
Their claim for slander and libel arose from a speech Ms Collins gave at Ukip’s conference in September 2014 – a month after a report found that about 1,400 children in the area had been abused between 1997 and 2013.
A year ago, Mr Justice Warby made findings on meaning – after which Ms Collins, who was legally represented at the time, made an offer of amends which was accepted.
The judge said that her words meant, as an allegation of fact, that each of the MPs knew many of the details of the exploitation yet deliberately chose not to intervene but allowed it to continue.
They also meant, as expressions of opinion, that they acted in this way for motives of political correctness, political cowardice or political selfishness and that they were guilty of misconduct so grave that it was or should be criminal, as it aided the perpetrators and made the MPs just as culpable.
The amount of compensation could not be agreed so the case came back to court in London on Monday for the judge to assess damages – which the claimants say should be in the region of £150,000 each.
But, Ms Collins, who is now acting in person, claimed she did not give informed consent to an offer of amends and there was no proper acceptance as the parties were unable to agree on any of its elements.
She said she was under the impression that her lawyers were going to robustly contest the claim and there were defences available.
Gavin Millar, QC for the MPs, said her application to set aside the agreement was not genuine, but was another attempt to “derail” the litigation and avoid paying compensation.
He said: “It is simply an attempt to get out of the bargain she made and yet another example of her inability to accept the consequences of her own actions.”
The judge, who earlier rejected Ms Collins’s bid to get the proceedings stayed on the basis of EU parliamentary immunity, will give his ruling tomorrow.