Sophie family fear appeal will drag on months
THE family of slain French mother-of-one Sophie Toscan du Plantier have expressed fears that returning a landmark extradition appeal to the High Court could trigger months of legal delays.
The Supreme Court was told yesterday that the legal team for Ian Bailey (54) is to apply for his extradition appeal to be referred back to the High Court.
They claimed that documents only released by the State last month would have had a dramatic impact on their original High Court challenge last May to a French extradition request.
A magistrate in Paris has applied for the extradition of Mr Bailey for possible trial in relation to the death of Ms du Plantier (39) in west Cork on December 23, 1996.
Mr Bailey -- who has admitted that he is a suspect in the case -- has consistently protested his innocence and claimed that efforts have been made to frame him for the crime.
The Manchester-born freelance journalist has vowed to fight the French extradition bid all the way to the European Court of Justice if necessary.
Chief Justice Ms Susan Denham will now hear the motion on Mr Bailey's behalf next Thursday.
If it is granted, it will force the postponement of the Supreme Court's hearing of the full extradition appeal, which had been earmarked for January 16.
She was told that Mr Bailey's lawyers were seeking the motion so that "some issues" could be heard again in the High Court.
Lawyers for the State said they didn't know know what the arguments to be raised by Mr Bailey's team were.
But Ms du Plantier's family are worried that the latest legal developments could trigger months of further delays over the extradition case, which has been before the Irish courts for 20 months.
Their solicitor, Alain Spilliaert, said the family welcomed the Supreme Court's statement that the extradition was "an urgent matter" and also wished to see it brought to a speedy conclusion.
"Our fear was that the hearing could have been postponed for a very long time," he said.
Mr Spilliaert said Sophie's parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, planned to travel to west Cork on January 10 next, with Sophie's aunt, Marie-Madeline Opalka, to mark the 15th anniversary of their daughter's death.
Mr Bailey's solicitor, Frank Buttimer, said the new material was "unprecedented by any standards" and he hinted at "breathtaking wrong-doing" by state officials.
His counsel, Martin Giblin SC, is adamant that if the material had been available before the High Court extradition hearing, it would have had "a significant" impact on the case.
Ms du Plantier was found battered to death at the foot of a laneway leading to her isolated holiday home at Toormore outside Schull in west Cork 48 hours before Christmas in 1996.