MEP ordered to pay £162,000 over libellous child sex abuse comments

By Michael Upton | 06/02/2017

MEP ordered to pay £162,000 over libellous child sex abuse comments
Jane Collins

MEP Jane Collins has been ordered to pay £162,000 in damages to Rotherham’s three MPs.

Kevin Barron, John Healey and Sarah Champion are all entitled to £54,000 each from the UKIP MEP after remarks she made about Rotherham's child abuse scandal were adjudged to be libellous.

She claimed in a 2014 conference speech that the MPs knew about child exploitation in the town but did nothing to intervene and failed in a court bid to prove she was entitled to MEPs’ immunity.

The MPs’ counsel Gavin Millar QC had argued that the allegations were the “talk of the tearoom” at Parliament and had caused the MPS “extreme distress”.

Mr Gavin Millar QC, told Mr Justice Warby at a hearing last week that Mrs Collins had tried to withdraw her offer after realising she would have to make a public apology.

He said: “This would have caused potential political discredit to her, to visibly climb down or be shown to have badly libelled my clients without any conceivable justification.”

Mr Millar added: “What she has, in effect, sought to do repeatedly and continuously since the original offer is to try and deter us from bringing this case to a final conclusion.”

Mrs Collins made the offending speech during her party’s 2014 conference at Doncaster Racecourse.

The event was broadcast live on the BBC Parliament channel and spread on social media.

Its central theme was the child exploitation scandal which had rocked Rotherham following the report of Prof Alexis Jay a month before the conference.

That report detailed how, over a 16-year period, an estimated 1,400 children were raped, beaten, plied with alcohol and drugs and threatened with violence by men of Asian origin.
Following a hearing on the “meaning” of the words in Ms Collins’ speech, in April 2015, Mr Justice Warby found she had stated that the three MPs “knew of the abuse and chose not to intervene”, as though it was a fact.
He also found other assertions made by her, including that the trio “acted in this way for motives of political correctness, political cowardice, or political selfishness”, were expressions of opinion.

After the hearing, Sir Kevin, Ms Champion and Mr Healey released a statement, which said Ms Collins had "ran out of places to hide".

It said: “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.

“Ms Collins could have admitted her mistake, withdrawn her remarks and apologised to us. Instead, she tried every trick in the book, including the absurd irony of trying, and failing, to seek immunity by hiding behind the EU institutions she is so keen for us to leave behind.

“In this era of so-called ‘post truth politics’, today’s judgement serves as an important reminder that facts matter. Victims of vile crimes should never be treated as political pawns by opportunists trying to make electoral gains from their plight. Jane Collins’ lies have been allowed to run for too long but today the Judge has ruled comprehensively against her.

“We’re very glad to get the full vindication this judgement give us against Jane Collins, and we will continue to get on with the important work of standing up for our constituents in parliament.”

Ms Collins also faces a legal costs bill of around £196,000 together with the £162,000 damages, making a total bill of £358,000.

She was ordered to pay the £162,000 and £120,000 of the costs - a total of £282,000 within 21 days.

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