Damages amount for Labour MPs over Rotherham scandal remarks to be decided

Ukip annual conference 2014

The amount of damages to be paid to Rotherham's three Labour MPs by a Ukip MEP over remarks she made about the town's child abuse scandal will be decided at the High Court.

Sir Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley, John Healey, who represents Wentworth and Dearne, and Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham have sued Jane Collins, who represents Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, for libel.

The litigation was sparked by a speech she gave at Ukip's conference in September 2014 - a month after a report found about 1,400 children in the area had been abused between 1997 and 2013.

Gavin Millar QC told Mr Justice Warby, who will give his ruling in London on Monday, that the allegations were the "talk of the tearoom" in Parliament in the run-up to the general election and caused "extreme distress".

Ms Collins refused to withdraw them throughout the whole of the campaign, had not apologised and had tried "time and time again" to delay the case, he added.

In 2015, the judge made findings on meaning - after which Ms Collins made an offer of amends which was accepted.

He said the words meant, as an allegation of fact, that each of the MPs knew many of the details of the exploitation yet deliberately chose not to intervene but allowed it to continue.

They also meant, as expressions of opinion, that they acted in this way for motives of political correctness, political cowardice or political selfishness and that they were guilty of misconduct so grave that it was or should be criminal, as it aided the perpetrators and made the MPs just as culpable.

Ms Collins argued it was a political speech which did not contain any allegation of fact, but expressed an opinion to the effect that the MPs were likely to have known that sexual exploitation was a serious problem in the area.

The amount of compensation could not be agreed so the case has returned to court for the assessment of damages, which the MPs say should be around £150,000 each.