UKIP to pay MEP’s costs
The High Court has allowed a limited third-party costs order against UKIP.
The case involved three claimants, all Labour MPs who successfully sued Ms Collins, a UKIP MEP, for libel and slander following a speech she gave to the UKIP party conference in September 2014. In that speech, broadcast live on a BBC channel and republished on the UKIP website, Ms Collins falsely claimed that the MPs were aware of the allegations made in the Rotherham abuse case but had deliberately chosen not to intervene for purposes of political correctness, selfishness and cowardice, and were thus guilty of grave misconduct tantamount to criminal conduct.
After taking advice Ms Collins made an offer ofaAmends that was accepted by the claimants, but then failed to abide by the terms of her own offer and made no correction or apology. The claimants therefore made an application for an assessment of damages. By this stage Ms Collins had parted company with her legal team and applied for an order to ‘vacate’ her offer, claiming she had a defence to the claim and that she had been badly advised and had misunderstood the advice she had been given. The application was rejected and she was ordered to pay damages of £162,000 (£54,000 to each of the MPs) plus costs. An interim payment on account of costs was ordered in the sum of £120,000.
No payment was made and following questioning of Ms Collins at a hearing of her means and assets and subsequent disclosure provided by her it was apparent that she was financially supported by UKIP and the claimants applied for a third-party costs order.
Ordering that UKIP be jointly and severally liable for costs with Ms Collins, Mr Justice Warby held that by January 2015 counsel had advised Ms Collins that she had no tenable defence. He held that there was a deliberate and informed decision at a high level within UKIP to prevent the case from settling prior to the General Election, for reasons of party political advantage, and that but for that intervention of UKIP it was likely that the case would have settled.