Ukip scuffle: MEPs Steven Woolfe and Mike Hookem reported to French police

Move by European parliament president Martin Schulz follows altercation in which Woolfe ended up in hospital

The European parliament has asked French police to investigate an altercation between Ukip MEPs Steven Woolfe and Mike Hookem, after receiving “contradictory statements” from the two men.

Martin Schulz, the head of the European parliament, announced on Wednesday that he had asked French authorities to investigate the case, after an internal parliamentary committee failed to reach a verdict about the disputed events.

The case has been referred to the general prosecutor’s office, which will lead a police investigation, a parliament source said.

Steven Woolfe, who has since left Ukip declaring the party “ungovernable”, was rushed to hospital after collapsing on a walkway at the European parliament in Strasbourg earlier this month following a scuffle with his colleague Mike Hookem.

Woolfe claimed that Hookem “came at him” during an argument after a party meeting. Woolfe spent three nights in hospital after the fracas.

Hookem denied punching Woolfe and posted a photograph of his hands on Twitter in a bid to prove he had not landed a blow on his colleague. The MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire dismissed the altercation as “handbags at dawn”. The row, which started at an internal party meeting and spilled into a corridor, was triggered by revelations that Woolfe had considered joining the Conservatives.

Ukip’s Mike Hookem says Steven Woolfe incident was ‘handbags at dawn’ – video

The two men took their different accounts to a European parliament conduct committee charged with investigating the matter. The committee of five MEPs had “received contradictory statements from the two MEPs and concluded that further evidence was needed to clarify the matter”, a parliament statement said.

The MEPs also face sanctions for bringing the European parliament into disrepute. If Woolfe or Hookem are found to have broken the parliament’s code of conduct, they could lose up to 10 days of allowances, totalling €4,000 (£3,600), or be stripped of their voting rights for the same period.

The Ukip chairman, Paul Oakden, is leading an internal investigation into the affair, but has said there were no independent witnesses to the scuffle.

Schulz told MEPs on Wednesday that parliament’s investigatory committee had concluded “that the versions of the facts given by the two members involved diverged substantially and the facts seem to have happened in the absence of direct witnesses”.

“[The committee] also stressed that given the seriousness of the reported facts and their possible criminal implications, further evidence is needed to clarify this matter. As a result I have decided to follow the recommendation of the advisory committee and I have referred this matter to the competent French authorities. Based on the result of the investigations I will then take a decision about a sanction to be imposed.”

Woolfe had been seen as frontrunner in the race to replace Diane James, whose term as Ukip leader lasted just 18 days. The new Ukip leader is due to be announced on 28 November, with nominations to replace James closing on 31 October. Contenders include Suzanne Evans, Paul Nuttall and Raheem Kassam.


Jennifer Rankin in Brussels

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