Bailey faces grilling over 'convincing Sophie clues'
Extradition order likely to be appealed to Supreme Court
Published 19/03/2011 | 07:25
FRENCH prosecutors are preparing to interrogate Ian Bailey about "serious and convincing clues" unearthed in the garda investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
The judge leading the investigation in France claims the “clues” justify Mr Bailey being charged in France with the murder of the 39-year-old filmmaker in West Cork 14 years ago. The High Court yesterday ordered that Mr Bailey, who was twice arrested but never charged in connection with the 1996 killing in Schull, Co Cork, be extradited to France.
The 53-year-old Englishman has always denied any involvement in the murder and is expected to appeal the extradition order to the Supreme Court. Mr Bailey's legal team will spend the weekend poring over Mr Justice Michael Peart’s 54-page judgment ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline for lodging an appeal.
The ruling surprised both legal teams, including those representing the State, who had expected the High Court to halt his extradition, according to well-placed legal sources. The family of the slain filmmaker last night gave a cautious welcome to the “unique” decision.
Mr Bailey is facing an unprecedented extradition to France despite the fact that the murder took place in Ireland. The Director of Public Prosecutions has repeatedly held that there is insufficient evidence to charge Mr Bailey over the murder.
French prosecutors believe that they have enough evidence to press charges against journalist
But the judge said a decision by the DPP not to prosecute was immaterial, as he was not precluded from reopening the matter.
Mr Bailey, who attended yesterday's brief hearing with his partner Jules Thomas, was visibly shaken as Mr Justice Peart ruled that he should be surrendered to the French authorities.
He was remanded on continuing bail pending next week's hearing.
As Mr Bailey left Dublin's Four Courts, his solicitor Frank Buttimer said they needed time to consider the implications.
"We will also have to appear before the High Court on Tuesday so it would be inappropriate to comment on any other matter concerning the judgment," he added.
Ms Toscan du Plantier was found dead outside her holiday home at Toormore, near Schull in west Cork, two days before Christmas in 1996.
Mr Bailey was arrested twice over the murder but charges were never brought by the DPP.
His barrister had argued there was no new evidence against his client, that the application was contrary to the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003, and that Mr Bailey could not be extradited for the purpose of an investigation only.
However, Mr Justice Peart dismissed each claim. He said the warrant clearly stated that its purpose was so the respondent could be "prosecuted for the offence".
He added: "The investigating judge in Paris has come to the view that there is sufficient evidence for the purpose of putting the respondent into the next phase of the prosecution procedure.
This procedure is clearly one which occurs within the process of prosecuting the respondent under French law."
Mr Justice Peart also said there had been no cogent or compelling evidence that Mr Bailey faced a real risk of an unfair trial in Paris.
In the warrant grounding the extradition request, the French authorities said that in the course of the garda investigation, "serious and convincing clues were accumulated against a journalist named Ian Bailey, of such a nature as to justify that he be charged".
French Judge Patrick Gachon opened an inquiry into Ms Du Plantier's death in 2008 under laws which allow French authorities to investigate, prosecute and put on trial anyone suspected of murdering a French citizen, even where it occurs outside of France.
Irish laws do not permit the prosecution here of non-Irish citizens who are suspected of murdering someone outside of the State.
Judge Gachon secured access to evidence gathered during a series of unsuccessful garda investigations and had Sophie's remains exhumed in the hope that advances in technology would help yield new forensic evidence.
This includes statements by a key witness, shopkeeper Marie Farrell, who gave a statement to gardai that she saw Mr Bailey on the night of the murder on Ceal Fada Bridge -- close to where Ms Du Plantier had her summer house, and where she was murdered.
Ms Farrell later retracted the statement, but it has been forwarded to Judge Gachon as part of the garda file.