Belfast Telegraph

Ian Bailey arrest: How European court could delay his extradition for murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier

Ian Bailey (62), with an address at The Prairie, Liscaha, Schull, West Cork, at the High Court today for an extradition hearing. PIC: Collins Courts
Ian Bailey (62), with an address at The Prairie, Liscaha, Schull, West Cork, at the High Court today for an extradition hearing. PIC: Collins Courts

By Ralph Riegel

A European Court of Human Rights complaint from Ian Bailey (62) could allow Ireland to delay enforcement of a fresh French extradition bid for him over the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (39).

The Manchester-born journalist's prediction came true today when a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) - the third issued by the French since 2010 - was endorsed by the High Court.

As part of the procedure, Mr Bailey was arrested pending being release on bail.

He had travelled to Dublin having been alerted to the EAW arriving before the Irish courts.

Seven months ago, Mr Bailey said he expected a fresh attempt by the French authorities to seek his extradition from west Cork on foot of a third European Arrest Warrant (EAW) following his conviction in May before a Paris court for the murder of the French mother of one almost 23 years ago.

The Cour d'Assises or Paris Criminal High Court convicted Mr Bailey in absentia of the killing on December 23, 1996.

Mr Bailey, who has consistently protested his innocence of the crime and was told he faced no action from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Ireland, was sentenced to 25 years in jail by Judge Frederique Aline.

Sign In

However, following his failure last year to halt the Paris prosecution in the French courts, Mr Bailey signalled a challenge to the ECHR.

He acknowledged that the ECHR bid would not halt the Paris court from trying him in absentia.

The extradition move threatens to put the Irish and French authorities on a judicial and diplomatic collision course - and potentially face the European judiciary with the first extradition case of its kind where a person was convicted of murder in one European country but with the crime having occurred in another EU member state.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier (Family Handout/PA)
Sophie Toscan du Plantier (Family Handout/PA)

Ireland has already been warned by Ms du Plantier's family that it must fully comply with existing European agreements for judicial co-operation.

Any failure to comply with judicial co-operation agreements will see Ms du Plantier's family press for France to take formal action against Ireland at EU level.

In 2012 the Supreme Court refused to extradite Mr Bailey to France for questioning by Paris prosecutors.

In 2015, a second French European Arrest Warrant (EAW) for Mr Bailey did not progress beyond the High Court.

However, the Paris authorities are now seeking Mr Bailey's extradition on the basis that, under French law, he is a convicted murderer.

"The knock on the door (from the gardai) could come at any time," Mr Bailey warned last May.

Prime suspect: Ian Bailey denies being the killer
Prime suspect: Ian Bailey denies being the killer

Mr Bailey refused to attend the Paris trial and was tried in absentia under France's Code Napoleon.

He dismissed the French prosecution as "a show trial" and "farcical", claiming: "I was convicted in France even before the trial opened."

His solicitor, Frank Buttimer, slated the Paris prosecution as "a gross miscarriage of justice" and said it was "insulting" to Ireland's judicial system which found Mr Bailey did not have a case to answer.

Mr Buttimer said Ireland's position was perfectly clear from the 2012 Supreme Court ruling.

Mr Bailey has consistently protested his innocence and maintained that "sinister" attempts were made to frame him for the crime.

The Paris trial relied on evidence which, Mr Bailey claimed, had been totally discredited or rejected in Ireland.

Family grief: Sophie Toscan du Plantier with her son Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud in 1990
Family grief: Sophie Toscan du Plantier with her son Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud in 1990

The journalist, who is also a law graduate, triggered a complaint to the ECHR over his treatment and the French prosecution.

"It has been absolute hell," he said.

"The tragedy here is that the French have convicted an innocent man - and the Irish (authorities) know it."

"This has been a nightmare that I am afraid will only end with my death."

"I am trying to stay calm in the eye of the hurricane. This has been a tragedy for the truth," he warned.

"There are people (in authority) in Ireland who are fully aware of the fact I am innocent. But those devils have remained silent," he said.

However, the French are set to demand that Ireland abide by European judicial agreements - with the du Plantier family adamant they want Mr Bailey before a French court.

Ms du Plantier's son, Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud said last May's Paris verdict was "a victory for justice."

The group set up to support the du Plantier family, ASSOPH, founded by Ms du Plantier's uncle, Jean-Pierre Gazeau, bluntly warned the Irish authorities that they would now be expected to fully adhere to their existing judicial commitments under European law.

Mr Bailey was convicted of the killing in west Cork on December 23, 1996 following a four day trial in Paris before the Cour d'Assises or French Criminal High Court.

The trial followed a ten year investigation led by two French magistrates, Patrick Gachon and Nathalie Turquey, which was launched when it was apparent the DPP was not going to signal a prosecution here.

Sophie had been battered to death on the laneway leading to her isolated holiday home at Toormore outside Schull just hours before she was due to fly home for Christmas.

It is believed she had attempted to flee from an intruder at her house.

Gardai arrested Mr Bailey for questioning over the killing in 1997 and 1998 but he was released without charge on both occasions.

In 2003, Mr Bailey sued eight Irish and UK newspapers for defamation arising from their coverage of the killing.

Four years ago, he lost a High Court wrongful arrest case - one of the longest running civil actions in Irish legal history - which he had taken against the gardai.

Two years ago, the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) released the result of a lengthy investigation into complaints made by Mr Bailey in respect of the garda murder investigation and how he had been treated.

It found no evidence that there had been a conspiracy against him.

However, the GSOC report was highly critical of the garda investigation which, it revealed, had seen official documents apparently altered and key evidence go missing from garda storage.

Irish Independent

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph