Sunday 11 December 2016

Court to hear of 'improper' bids by gardai for Bailey prosecution

Maeve Sheehan and Ralph Riegel

Published 15/01/2012 | 05:00

FURTHER details of the "grossly improper" attempts by senior gardai to get a murder charge against Ian Bailey for the murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier will be disclosed in the Supreme Court tomorrow.

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The documents include an email from Eamon Barnes, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, a memo written by Cork state solicitor Malachy Boohig and a contemporaneous note taken by an unnamed official. Each gives an account of how gardai allegedly tried to put pressure on the then DPP to prosecute Ian Bailey for murder in 1998.

Mr Bailey, a local journalist, was the Garda's prime suspect for Ms Du Plantier's murder after she was found bludgeoned to death outside her west Cork holiday home in December 1996. Mr Bailey has accused gardai of trying to frame him. He is fighting his extradition to France where authorities want to question him in connection with Ms Du Plantier's murder.

Malachy Boohig describes in a memo how a garda asked him to use his "connection" with the then-justice minister, John O'Donoghue, to see if "something could be done" to bring a murder charge.

Mr Boohig says the approach was made after a meeting with senior gardai, who spent an hour urging him to persuade the then DPP, Mr Barnes, to prosecute the chief suspect.

Mr Boohig pointed out that there was nowhere near enough evidence. Afterwards, two gardai followed him outside and stated in "very strong terms" that he "would have to persuade the (DPP) to direct a prosecution".

One garda said he was aware that Mr Boohig had studied with Mr O'Donoghue, and "that I should use that connection to talk to the minister to see if something could be done". Mr Boohig did not contact the minister. He did, however, inform the then DPP, Mr Barnes.

Mr Barnes revealed this "improper" approach for the first time in an email to his successor as DPP, James Hamilton, last October "as a matter of ordinary justice". He said there was a real possibility that "Bailey may be charged in France".

His emails -- along with a damning analysis of the garda evidence -- were released to Ian Bailey late last year by state solicitors.

On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that the new evidence could be admitted in his appeal against his extradition, which begins tomorrow. In his email, Mr Barnes describes the Garda's attempts to bring pressure to bear on his office as "grossly improper" and the garda investigation as "thoroughly flawed and prejudiced".

He wrote that he was "well aware" that gardai were anxious to charge Ian Bailey because of the "strong and persistent advocacy" they deployed on his office "for some considerable time".

A second contemporaneous note written by an unnamed official told how Mr Boohig was "disturbed" by the approach from gardai, who claimed they "simply had to get a result".

During a Supreme Court hearing on Friday, the court requested the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, to disclose whether any of the matters raised by the former DPP were being investigated.

Mr Bailey has used the documents as the basis for a formal complaint to the Garda Ombudsman.

The family of Ms Du Plantier told the Sunday Independent they were "very relieved" by the Supreme Court ruling -- and remained optimistic about the extradition.

Alain Spilliaert, lawyer for Sophie's parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, said the ruling was "very good news because we were very worried that if it was sent back to the High Court it could result in very significant delays".

The family had been concerned at the slow progress since the French authorities first issued a European Arrest Warrant for Mr Bailey back in April 2010.

"We are very pleased with this outcome and we remain hopeful and optimistic," Mr Spilliaert said. He said that the family believed the new material that would now feature in Mr Bailey's appeal was not central to his extradition.

"We do not believe it is relevant. We believe the issue is whether the French judicial system is fair and balanced. That is what we believe the Supreme Court will focus on," Mr Spilliaert added.

Ms Du Plantier's parents plan to travel to west Cork within the next few weeks to mark the 15th anniversary of her death.

Sunday Independent

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