Tuesday 22 August 2017

Bailey looks to Europe in extradition battle

Ex-journalist 'devastated' after court order in Sophie case

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

IAN Bailey intends to launch a series of appeals to stop his extradition to France where he is wanted in connection with the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, his lawyers have confirmed.

The former journalist, who is wanted for questioning by a Paris magistrate about the filmmaker's murder in 1996, will ask the High Court for leave to appeal on Tuesday. If his application is refused, his lawyers are expected to turn to the European courts.

Frank Buttimer, Mr Bailey's solicitor, said: "We will be pursuing out all of our appeal options on Tuesday."

Mr Bailey was back home in Toormore in west Cork this weekend while his legal team studied a High Court judgement by Michael Peart on Friday that ruled he should be extradited. Leave to appeal will only be granted on the grounds of "public importance".

The former journalist was said to be devastated and to "have lost faith in the system" following the judgement, according to sources.

However, Ms Toscan du Plantier's family, who campaigned for years for their daughter's murder to be solved, said it was a "good day", according to their lawyer Alain Spilliaert.

"It is a good week for the Du Plantier family," he said, but added that there were other steps to follow.

The dead woman's uncle, Jean Pierre Gazeau, said the family was relieved.

Ms Toscan du Plantier, 38, was beaten to death outside her remote holiday home in Toormore, West Cork, in December 1996.

Mr Bailey, 53, was arrested twice in connection with the murder but the Director of Public Prosecutions never pressed charges.

Mr Bailey always denied involvement and is suing gardai for wrongful arrest. But following sustained pressure from Ms Toscan du Plantier's family, an investigating magistrate, Patrick Gachon, was appointed to investigate her murder from France.

French law requires that Mr Bailey be brought before an examining magistrate and given the chance to respond to the evidence before deciding whether he should go on trial.

If he is eventually extradited, Mr Bailey could be spending a very long spell away from his west Cork home.

He would first be arrested by gardai, escorted on a flight to Paris and handed over to the French police. The investigating magistrate, Judge Gachon, would formally inform him of the charges and begin his investigation.

Only then would Mr Bailey get to see the criminal file and find out what, if any, new evidence exists.

Mr Bailey could apply for bail but if granted he would not be allowed to leave the country without permission. It's also likely that he would have to pay for his own living expenses and accommodation although he can make a case for aid to the French authorities.

It is not clear how long he might have to remain in the country but it could take two years for the investigation to get to the stage of a trial.

Meanwhile, Judge Gachon's investigation continues with French police expected to travel to Cork to meet witnesses in the coming months.

Detectives on the original investigation have been interviewed in Paris, as have a number of witnesses.

Other officers and key witnesses were contacted by Judge Gachon and put on notice that he would like to question them in France.

The judge's investigation will be dependent on the co-operation of these witnesses, as he has no power to compel people from another jurisdiction to go to France for questioning.

Mr Bailey, who lived with his partner, Jules Thomas, an artist, emerged as a suspect within days of Ms Toscan Du Plantier's murder. He was then a freelance journalist and one of the first reporters on the scene of the crime. During a subsequent libel trial it emerged that he had been violent towards Ms Thomas and neighbours claimed that he told them: "I did it, I did it, I went too far."

Mr Bailey has always insisted he is innocent.

Lawyers fighting his extradition argued that no new evidence had come to light. They also argued that an individual cannot be extradited to another country to be investigated in connection with a crime, but only to be prosecuted. Mr Justice Peart ruled on Friday that the French intended to prosecute him.

He also rejected their concerns that Mr Bailey would not get a fair trial in France. He said there was "no such evidence" even though procedures in France were very different to those in Ireland.

Sunday Independent

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