Belfast Telegraph

Man wins French extradition fight

A British man has won a two-year legal battle against his extradition to France over the murder of a film-maker in Cork 15 years ago.

The Supreme Court in Dublin ruled Ian Bailey cannot be sent for questioning about the killing of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Ms Toscan du Plantier, 39, was found beaten to death outside her holiday home in Schull, west Cork, two days before Christmas 1996.

Mr Bailey, a one-time suspect in the Irish side of the investigation, has always protested his innocence. The five judges upheld his appeal and ruled that under Irish law the 54-year-old former journalist could only be extradited to face prosecution, and not for questioning.

An investigating magistrate, Patrick Gachon, was appointed in Paris to conduct an inquiry into Ms Toscan du Plantier's death after the DPP announced nobody would be charged in Ireland following a Garda investigation.

Under French law, authorities can investigate the suspicious death of a citizen abroad but they cannot compel witnesses to go to Paris for questioning.

Mr Bailey was arrested and questioned twice by gardai after Ms Toscan du Plantier's killing but never charged. He cupped his ear to hear better as the judges delivered their verdicts one by one, and hugged his partner, Jules Thomas, when the unanimous ruling was delivered.

The Chief Justice, Susan Denham, said the appeal from a High Court decision arose in unique circumstances and raised unprecedented questions of law. "It is clear from the facts of the case on the documents before the court that, while a decision has been made in France equivalent to charging the appellant, that decision does not incorporate a decision to try him for the murder of Mme Toscan du Plantier," she said.

Outside Dublin's Four Courts, Mr Bailey, who is taking legal action against the state for wrongful arrest, said he and Ms Thomas have been through hell: "This has obviously been a very trying time. I am obviously relieved that this particular part of the proceedings is over. There are many stages and matters still to be dealt with." Mr Bailey is also expected to take legal steps to have the European Arrest Warrant for him lifted.

A lawyer representing the elderly parents of Ms Toscan du Plantier said they were disappointed and surprised by the ruling. Alain Spilliaert warned the French investigation into her death would continue, adding there could be a trial in Mr Bailey's absence based on the evidence of Irish witnesses by French investigators and a fresh extradition requested.

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