A HIGH court battle is looming after a Yorkshire Ukip MEP claimed Labour MPs must have known about the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal.
Ukip has refused to comment after three Labour MPs started defamation proceedings over “sicking” claims made by the party at its Doncaster conference.
MEP Jane Collins caused outrage when she used a speech at the party gathering last autumn to accuse Labour of knowing of the child abuse going on in Rotherham but failing to act.
Ms Collins was served with papers before Christmas after Rotherham MPs Sarah Champion, John Healey and Kevin Barron decided they were unlikely to secure a public apology from the outspoken MEP without legal action.
The three MPs also served papers on councillor Caven Vines, who leads the Ukip group on Rotherham Council, in relation to comments he made in a Sky News interview in January 5.
In her speech Ms Collins suggested the three MPs “knew many of the details of what was happening” and calling for criminal charges against anyone who did not intervene to stop young girls being abused in Rotherham.
At the time the controversial remarks, coming less than a month after the publication of the report, drew huge cheers from the racecourse crowd.
In a joint statement, the three MPs said: ““It is sickening that UKIP could use such an important issue for party-political point-scoring, and we will challenge these defamatory accusations through every means available to prove they are untrue and to stop UKIP exploiting the terrible abuse for their own political gain.”
Since the Jay report identified horrific failings in child care at Rotherham council and South yorkshire Police, Ms Champion has led efforts to bring those involved to justice, including hiring a charity worker who was among the first to fight for justice for the abused children.
The former children’s hospice executive, who was only elected to the Rotherham seat in 2012, said: “While I can confirm that legal action has been taken I can make no further comment as it is an ongoing court case. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to discuss this any further at present.”
Ukip have repeatedly sought to make the abuse scandal an election issue, with many up until now expecting that approach to continue into the General Election.
Last October Ukip unveiled a poster during the South Yorkshire police commissioner election featuring a picture of a distressed child and message telling voters there were “1,400 reasons why you should not vote Labour again.” Ukip’s Jack Clarkson came second in the election with 31.66%.
Since then Ukip has made no secret of its intention to make Rotherham one of the key election battlegrounds in the north, although Labour planners took solace in the fact Nigel Farage’s party did not win the majority of votes in the Rotherham section of the commissioner elections.
Ms Collins said had been advised not to comment on the libel claims by her legal team. The MEP, who is the party’s general election candidate for Rotherham Central, came second in the 2012 by-election for the seat with more than 21% of the vote.
Coun Vines said he was seeking legal advice after receiving the legal papers yesterday and would not be commenting until then.
A Ukip spokeswoman declined to make a statement.
A date has not yet been set for the legal action.