A Ukip MEP has been ordered to pay £162,000 ($202,000) in libel damages to three Labour MPs over comments she made about the Rotherham child abuse scandal.
Jane Collins, Ukip MEP for Yorkshire and Humber, stated that Labour MPs in Rotherham had known details of the scandal that engulfed the town, but failed to intervene due to political correctness, cowardice, or selfishness and were thus guilty of grave misconduct.
Collins made the allegations at Ukip's conference in September 2014, coming just a month after an explosive report found that an estimated 1,400 children in Rotherham had been abused between 1997 and 2013.
The three accused were Sir Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley, John Healey, who represents Wentworth and Dearne, and Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, who all sued Collins for libel and slander.
The award was decided at London's High Court on Monday (6 February), with Collins also facing an estimated bill for costs of £196,000 in addition to £54,000 to each claimant.
Collins was ordered to make an interim payment of £120,000 with the outstanding amount to be paid within 21 days. It was reported that Collins had made an offer of amends to the MPs, but the amount of compensation could not be agreed by the parties involved.
Lawyers for Collins argued that she had made the comments during a political speech and that her words did not contain any allegation of fact, rather an expressed opinion that the MPs were likely to have known about the sexual abuse as it was a serious problem in their area.
However, it was stated that Collins had refused to withdraw her comments throughout her political campaign, that she had not apologised for making the comments and that she had tried to delay the litigation on multiple occasions.
Mr Justice Warby said at the hearing that all three MPs found the experience "genuinely and significantly distressing". He said according to the BBC: "They felt that their careers were at stake, and that their integrity was under serious attack."
Champion said after the hearing: "I think she did it [during the campaign] to create political damage. Using child abuse for political gain – it's immoral."
After damages were awarded, the three Labour MPs said in a joint statement: "Today's judgement at last brings to an end a process to clear our names which has gone on for over two years, delayed and dragged out time again by Jane Collins' repeated attempts to evade justice.
"She has run out of places to hide, and today the judge said in no uncertain terms that her behaviour since proceedings began has been unreasonable and offensive.
"The judge has also noted the impact on each claimant's reputation was seriously harmful, and each suffered substantial distress as a result of the publication complained of, from the repetition of its gist or sting, and from the cascade of hostile social media response."
Collins has not issued any comments on the damages.