Thursday 8 December 2016

Court grants preliminary hearing of issues in case of Ian Bailey's partner Jules Thomas

Published 06/10/2015 | 14:33

Jules Thomas
Jules Thomas

The High Court has granted a State application for a preliminary hearing of issues related to a case being taken by Ian Bailey's partner Jules Thomas.

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Ms Thomas claims she has suffered psychiatric illness and "incalculable" damage due to alleged actions by gardai and the State concerning the investigation into the late 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork.

Mr Justice John Hedigan granted an application by the State for a preliminary hearing of issues which, if decided against Ms Thomas, may either completely halt, or shorten, her civil action for damages.

Her action is being brought on grounds including wrongful arrest of her in connection with the murder, as well as for alleged false imprisonment, conspiracy and terrorising behaviour.

Having dealt with Mr Bailey's separate case over 64 days earlier this year, the judge believed anything that can be done to shorten or even fully strike out Ms Thomas' case at an early stage should be done.

That was in everyone's interests, including Ms Thomas, as the proceedings caused "enormous" trauma and strain on her and the defendants, he said.

The first issue to be decided is whether Ms Thomas' case, initiated in 2007 and arising from her arrests in 1997 and 2000 in connection with Ms du Plantier's murder, was brought outside the six year legal time limit.

The second issue is whether there was excessive delay in bringing it. A hearing date for the issues will be fixed next month.

Luán O Braonáin, SC, for the defendants, argued there was a “deep irony” in Ms Thomas' opposing trial of preliminary issues when lawyers for Mr Bailey had strongly criticised the State’s delay, until near the end of Mr Bailey's case, in successfully seeking to have large aspects of his separate case halted.

Mr Bailey's remaining claims of conspiracy by some gardai to frame him for murder were rejected by a High Court jury last March, leaving him facing a bill of up to €5m in legal costs.

Mr  O Braonáin said it was "very unsatisfactory" for Ms Thomas to now claim, due to a psychiatric illness, a possibility of her being under a disability up to 2011 when it came to instructing lawyers.

It was also incorrect for her side to infer malice or fraudulent concealment concerning information supplied by his side to her lawyers concerning the DPP's advices against prosecuting her.

Michael Lynn SC for Ms Thomas, said he would apply later to make additional claims.

These claims concerned her psychological capacity to instruct lawyers before 2007 and to allege gardai continued to engage in “surreptitious” intelligence gathering on her up to 2010, giving her a continuing cause of action of which she only became aware in recent years, he said.

The judge asked counsel would he not expect gardai to "keep an eye" on all suspects in the investigation of a murder which is still unsolved.

Ms Thomas was arrested on suspicion of being an accomplice and there had to be "some recognition of realities", he said.

Mr Lynn said Ms Thomas’ case was entirely separate from Mr Bailey's, she was entitled to a separate hearing and, while it might be "uncomfortable" for the system to rerun issues, that is what justice requires.

In a report read in court, a psychiatrist who assessed Ms Thomas recently said he believed she has been affected by depressive illness from 1996 until at least 2011 which was likely to have caused an impediment in her mental state, affecting her ability to instruct lawyers. 

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