Belfast Telegraph

French court to decide if ex-journalist can be tried for murder of filmmaker

A French court is expected to rule in the coming weeks on whether a former journalist can stand trial in his absence for the 1996 murder of a filmmaker in Ireland.

Authorities in Paris have failed twice to extradite Ian Bailey over the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, with the Irish High Court branding the latest attempt an "abuse of process".

The 39-year-old's badly beaten body was found on an isolated hillside in Toormore, near Schull, west Cork, two days before Christmas in 1996.

Under French law, investigators can look into the death of one of their citizens overseas and seek a prosecution.

Originally from England but living in west Cork since the mid 1990s, Mr Bailey was twice arrested in Ireland in connection with the murder but never charged. He vehemently denies any involvement in the death. Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions decided that he should not be prosecuted.

After Judge Tony Hunt refused to order his extradition, Mr Bailey, 60, from The Prairie, Liscaha, Schull, said he expected the decision to be appealed. He said he had no indication of legal developments in France but expressed sympathy with Ms Toscan du Plantier's family.

"I know they believe, for whatever reasons, that I had something to do with the death of their daughter and I'm very sympathetic. But I had nothing to do with it," he said.

"It would be good from my point of view if a new piece of evidence came to light or somebody admitted the truth, but I don't suppose that's going to happen."

Last year in Paris, an indictment of voluntary homicide was issued by the investigating magistrate, Nathalie Turquey, against Mr Bailey and a European Arrest Warrant was sent to Irish authorities. The penalty for the offence is up to 30 years in jail.

A n appeal was lodged by lawyers acting for Mr Bailey in France and a ruling on the indictment is expected in the Paris Court of Appeal in the next few weeks. It is understood that will determine if Mr Bailey can be put on trial in his absence.

The Association for the Truth about the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (Assoph) - founded by the dead woman's family to campaign over her murder - said the latest failed extradition bid was expected.

Spokesman Jean Antoine Bloc said: "We have been waiting for 20 years for justice and we are no longer expecting anything more from Ireland."

The first application to extradite Mr Bailey was refused by the Supreme Court in Dublin in 2012. Judge Hunt found that decision should block any new application.

He also criticised the second attempt to extradite Mr Bailey when the DPP had decided that he should not face charges.

"(The application) is also refused because, in the unique circumstances of this case, further proceedings seeking surrender on the fresh warrant constitute an abuse of process," the judge said.

Mr Bailey has not worked as a journalist for many years. He is currently trying to sell a collection of poems he has compiled.

He lost a marathon lawsuit against the Irish state over the handling of the Ms Toscan du Plantier murder investigation and a claim that detectives had tried to frame him. A decision on an appeal in that case is expected this Wednesday.

Mr Bailey has also suggested that he should be put on trial in connection with the murder in Ireland.

Ms Toscan du Plantier was married to the late Daniel Toscan du Plantier, a major player in French cinema who had close contacts with the upper echelons of government in Paris. Her son Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud, who was 14 when she was murdered, has told RTE that he wants to see Mr Bailey on trial.

"I am confident that we will get the answer. I'm not sure if it will be tomorrow, in one month, in one year, in 10 years. But I must get the answer for my grandparents before they die," he said.

"I'm 35 and I will wait for justice to be done and justice will be done one day, for sure."

Mr Bailey, who moved to Ireland from Cheltenham, admitted during the failed lawsuit to beating his partner Jules Thomas three times.

The fallout from the case was not limited to the exposure of Mr Bailey's domestic violence, cannabis use and heavy drinking or assessments by Ireland's senior law officers that gardai botched the initial investigation.

As part of disclosures in the lawsuit, it emerged that phone calls at Garda stations countrywide were recorded for years without the public's knowledge.

The courtroom defeat in his bid for damages was the second Mr Bailey suffered after he lost libel actions in 2003 against several newspapers over their reporting of the murder investigation and naming him as a suspect.

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