Saturday 24 June 2017

Gardai urged to bring in legal team for Bailey hearing

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

THE Garda Commissioner is being urged to seek legal representation for the force at Friday's extradition proceedings against Ian Bailey, who French authorities want to question in relation to the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

The development follows criticisms of the garda investigation of the French woman's murder at her holiday home in West Cork in 1996.

The new disclosures surfaced two months ago but are to be aired for the first time in the Supreme Court, where Bailey is appealing against his extradition to France. His lawyers will argue that the allegations prove Bailey, the garda's prime suspect, was wrongly targeted.

Gardai involved in the original investigation are disputing the criticisms. Following their representations, the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, is now giving serious consideration to seeking legal representation for the force during the extradition proceedings.

The information was disclosed to Ian Bailey in November, on the advice of the Attorney General, in the "interests of justice", but the State is expected to argue that they are not relevant to his extradition proceedings and will urge the Supreme Court to disregard them.

Eamon Barnes, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, said the investigation was thoroughly flawed and prejudiced.

A report, entitled 'Analysis of the Evidence to link Ian Bailey to the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder', said:

• "No forensic evidence linking Ian Bailey to the scene was found despite the fact that the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier was the direct result of an apparently frenzied and furious attack upon her in a briar-strewn location." It continued: "If Bailey had murdered Sophie, he would have known that there was a definite possibility of forensic evidence such as blood, fibres, hair or skin tissue being discovered at the scene. His voluntary provision of fingerprints and a specimen of his blood is objectively indicative of innocence."

• "The garda contention that Bailey is being untruthful regarding his knowledge of Sophie Toscan du Plantier is not supported by convincing evidence."

• On the arrest of Ian Bailey's partner, Jules Thomas, in 1997, the report said: "None of the questioning put to Jules Thomas in the course of her detention relates to an involvement by her in the murder. It would appear that her arrest and detention was unlawful."

• According to the report, gardai warned members of the community that Bailey was the killer: "Once Ian Bailey was believed to be responsible for the murder, the fear thereby engendered was bound to create a climate in which witnesses became suggestible."

• On inconsistencies in Bailey's account, the DPP said: "The fact that Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas have made errors in their recollection does not necessarily mean they are deliberately lying. Errors made by other persons are regarded as simple mistakes in terms of recollection."

• The report suggests gardai allegedly gave cash, clothes and hash to a destitute drug abuser as a "reward" for his assistance: ". . . despite (the garda's) denial, the balance of evidence suggests that he (the drug abuser) is telling the truth. Such investigative practices are clearly unsafe to say the least."

• Alleged admissions Bailey made to witnesses were described as "sarcastic" and, in one case, the DPP's report said "his black humour is the antithesis of an admission".

• His explanation for the scratches on his arms, which he said were caused by cutting a tree and killing turkeys, was "plausible, consistent and supported by other direct and credible evidence." Furthermore, his "willingness to assist the gardai is indicative of innocence. He made no attempt to conceal the scratch marks."

• As to Bailey's "premonition" that something bad would happen on the night Sophie was murdered, the DPP said a sense of foreboding was not incriminating. Several witnesses -- whose statements were not included in the original garda file -- separately said their dogs were "unusually upset", "unusually disturbed" and "barking mad from 10.30 to 10.45pm and continued this for three hours"; "The evidence suggests there could well have been unusual movement in the area where Sophie was killed in the early hours of the morning. Bailey and Jules were drinking in a pub in Schull at the time the dogs initially became upset."

The report concluded: "A prosecution against Bailey is not warranted by the evidence."

Sunday Independent

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