Ukip MEP Jane Collins facing bankruptcy over £358,000 libel costs to Rotherham MPs

Ukip MEP Jane Collins could face bankruptcy after she failed to pay damages to Rotherham's three Labour MPs over remarks she made about the town's child abuse scandal.

MEP Jane Collins.

Ms Collins, MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, was ordered to pay a total of £358,000 in damages and costs after a long-running legal battle ended at London’s High Court in February.

But she appeared in court in Hull for a further hearing yesterday after she did not meet a 21-day deadline to pay the damages.

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Sir Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley, John Healey, MP for Wentworth and Dearne, and Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, sued Ms Collins for libel and slander over a speech she gave at Ukip’s conference in September 2014 – a month after a report found that around 1,400 children in the area had been abused between 1997 and 2013.

The High Court heard she alleged that each of the MPs knew many of the details of the exploitation yet deliberately chose not to intervene.

She also expressed the opinion that they acted out of political correctness, political cowardice or political selfishness and were guilty of misconduct so grave that it was or should be criminal, as it aided the perpetrators.

Ms Collins argued that it was a political speech which did not contain any allegation of fact but expressed an opinion to the effect that the MPs were likely to have known that sexual exploitation was a serious problem in the area.

Mr Justice Warby ordered Ms Collins to pay a total of £162,000 damages to the MPs and £196,000 in costs.

She was given 21 days to pay the damages and an interim payment of £120,000 costs but failed to do so. Yesterday, Ms Collins appeared at a private hearing at Hull County Court to discuss a demand for payment issued by the MPs’ lawyers.

It is understood the MEP had requested the demand was set aside but this was not agreed at the hearing.

A spokeswoman for Ms Collins said the judge has now ordered that an examination of her assets should take place before June 8.

The spokeswoman said she will face bankruptcy proceedings if it is found that she cannot make the payments owed.

A further court hearing will take place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London later this year to discuss how Ms Collins intends to pay.

Ms Collins was advised by her lawyer not to comment after the hearing but said no orders for costs had been issued during the proceedings.