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Courts Labour MPs seek costs from Ukip for ‘funding and influencing’ a libel suit

LAWYERS for three Labour MPs are seeking costs from Ukip for “funding and influencing” a libel suit against them by one of its MEPs for political purposes.

Kevin Barron, Sarah Champion and John Healey were awarded £54,000 each in damages after Ukip MEP Jane Collins claimed in 2014 that they had known about child exploitation in Rotherham but failed to intervene.

Ms Collins was also ordered to make an interim payment of £120,000 in costs in February last year, but “nothing has been received against either of those sums,” according to the written submission.

Lawyers for the MPs are now attempting to force Ukip to bear the costs of the action.

In written submissions to the High Court, they accuse the party of “playing electoral poker” with the litigation, having decided that any attempts to settle the case before the 2015 general election would “damage it electorally.”

The document adds that Ukip regarded the litigation as “part and parcel of its 2015 general election campaign,” pointing to minutes from a Ukip national executive meeting in March 2015 which stated that “votes are more important than money now.”

William McCormick QC, representing the MPs, said the question for the court to determine was whether Ukip had been seeking to “influence the conduct of the litigation,” arguing that “they clearly were.”

He conceded that Ukip’s involvement in the case “effectively ceased” in June 2015, until which point “it seems that Ukip paid all the bills,” but that it was “just” for the party to pay the claimants’ costs for the entire action.

Witness statements filed on behalf of Ukip claim that an adverse outcome before the election would not have mattered and that updates were only sent to senior figures to keep them “in the loop.”

The hearing continues.

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