Sunday 23 October 2016

Irish witnesses can't be forced to attend Bailey trial in France

Alain Spilliaert

Published 06/08/2016 | 02:30

Ian Bailey will be offered a full defence team. Pic: Courts Collins
Ian Bailey will be offered a full defence team. Pic: Courts Collins

The trial in relation to the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (39) will be a non-jury hearing before a panel of three senior magistrates.

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It will be held before the Paris Criminal Court and the magistrates will be drawn from a panel of those who are very experienced in criminal hearings.

It is still unknown precisely when the trial will take place, but it is likely that it will be in mid- or late 2017.

The accused, Ian Bailey, will be offered a full defence team.

However, if he does not co-operate with the court or refuses to recognise the process, it is doubtful if a defence will be run without them.

French law is very different from that in both Ireland and the UK, which dates back to Anglo-Saxon times.

In France, the law is derived from the Napoleonic Code.

A trial can take place in France for a crime that happened overseas if the person involved was a French citizen.

French law also allows for a person to be tried in absentia.

Such trials have taken place in the past.

It is very difficult to say exactly how long this trial will last. If no defence is mounted, it could last two or three weeks.

The trial magistrates can also allow evidence to be submitted, such as witness statements from people who are deceased or are not present in court.

In the case of the investigation conducted by the French police for Magistrates Patrick Gachon and Nathalie Turquey, the witness statements were all signed, sworn and video-taped.

This was done during multiple trips to Ireland by an elite team of Paris-based detectives.

They interviewed all the original witnesses who had been questioned by gardaí.

All the witnesses interviewed since the French investigation into the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier was launched in 2008 will still be invited to attend the Paris trial in person.

Given the number of English-speaking witnesses likely to be involved in the trial process, a full translation service is expected to be operated during the hearing.

Witnesses who are invited to attend the trial and agree to do so will have their travel and subsistence expenses paid for by the French judicial system in the same manner in which such costs are covered in Ireland and the UK.

However, Irish-based witnesses cannot be compelled to attend the French trial.

The verdict will be delivered by the three magistrates.

Irish Independent

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