Ukip ordered to pay Rotherham MPs' legal costs after defamation case

Sarah Champion MP.
Sarah Champion MP.

Ukip has been ordered to pay £175,000 in legal costs over a defamation case brought by three Labour MPs.

The party has been told to pay the money towards the costs incurred by Sir Keven Barron, John Healey and Sarah Champion.

The interim payment order by Justice Warby comes just days after Ukip's leader Gerard Batten issued a plea for cash for the party.

At an earlier High Court hearing it was ruled that the party took a "deliberate, informed and calculated" decision to ensure that the defamation action brought by Rotherham's three Labour MPs against a Ukip MEP should not be settled before the 2015 General Election.

In February 2017 Jane Collins, MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, was ordered to pay £54,000 in damages to each MP over remarks she made about the town's child abuse scandal.

In a joint statement 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.

"This deliberate strategy hugely increased the legal costs and it is right that Ukip are today held liable for a large share of these costs.

"Ukip used the unfounded allegations by Jane Collins for political advantage.

"At the highest level Ukip knew Jane Collins' case was 'hopeless' but blocked any settlement in our favour before the 2015 General Election because they believed it would win them votes."

In an indication of the parlous state of Ukip's finances, earlier this month Mr Batten said the party had to raise £100,000 by the end of March.

He wrote to all local Ukip groups across the country to ask them divert any funds they have in their coffers to the central party "purely for operational needs", the Sun reported.

He said that "if we cannot raise it then the future of the Party itself is in question".