Ukip facing financial ruin after £200,000 High Court damages award over Labour libel case
Ukip could face financial ruin after it was hit with a six-figure legal bill over false claims made by one of its MEPs that three Labour MPs covered up child sexual abuse.
Jane Collins made the incendiary allegations against Rotherham MPs Sarah Champion, John Healey and Kevin Barron at her party's annual conference in 2014.
She was ordered to pay more than £160,000 in libel damages to the MPs, plus costs of £120,000, after the High Court rejected her claim that her comments were an opinion rather than an allegation of fact.
In a separate judgement issued today, Justice Warby ruled that Ukip should also have to contribute to the total legal bill of £660,000 because it refused to settle the case before the 2015 general election, despite knowing Ms Collins' claims were untrue.
The judgement said: "I have concluded that a limited costs order … should be made against UKIP, to reflect the impact on the action and its costs of the party’s deliberate and calculated decision(s) of late February and early March 2015, to ensure for party political and specifically electoral reasons that the claimants’ action should not be settled before the general election."
Labour sources said the final award against Ukip - whose treasurer has admitted is facing major financial problems - could be at least £200,000.
In a joint-statement, the MPs said: "This judgement confirms 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.
"This deliberate strategy delayed the full vindication we finally won, and hugely increased the legal costs.
"This means UKIP will rightly pay a substantial share of the legal bill. Their actions behind the scenes forced the costs to soar and compounded the damage from Jane Collins’ unfounded allegations."
But a senior Ukip source told PoliticsHome they were confident that the final bill for the party will not be as high as £200,000.
A spokesman for the party said: "While we are disappointed with the decision it is clear that Ukip are being treated as a party driven by goodwill and we believe that will be reflected in any final decision on costs."