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Saturday 18 November 2017

Bailey vows to fight bid for his extradition

The European warrant for a law student issued over Sophie Toscan du Plantier's death is likely to provoke a landmark but lengthy process for Irish judiciary, writes Ralph Riegel

THE French bid to have former freelance journalist and law student Ian Bailey, 53, extradited for questioning about the Sophie Toscan du Plantier case could take more than a year to resolve.

The French move to issue a European arrest warrant for Mr Bailey caused widespread shock last Thursday -- and was described by the Briton's solicitor, Frank Buttimer, as "a nonsense" and "extraordinary".

Mr Buttimer confirmed that his client will now vigorously oppose the move by Paris-based magistrate Patrick Gachon, who was appointed two years ago to conduct a probe into the circumstances of Sophie Toscan du Plantier's death in west Cork on December 23, 1996.

The Cork solicitor pointed out that, prior to Thursday's dramatic development, the French authorities had made absolutely no contact with him about any information his client might or might not have to assist their inquiries.

"I have heard nothing other than what I have been hearing from the media. Mr Bailey has never been contacted by any so-called French judicial authority to assist in relation to any investigation," Mr Buttimer added.

Mr Gachon's appointment followed intense lobbying by friends and family of the murdered French mother of one -- many of whom expressed frustration that, despite one of the biggest manhunts ever mounted by the gardai, no one was ever charged with the brutal killing.

They set up the Sophie Toscan du Plantier Truth Association (STDPTA) -- backed by Sophie's parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol -- which enlisted support from powerful figures from the French political, judicial and cultural worlds.

The French decision to issue a European arrest warrant is now expected to provoke a landmark Irish judicial ruling over the legality of extraditing someone to another jurisdiction for questioning about a crime which occurred here.

Under Napoleonic law, people can be tried in France for crimes involving French citizens, despite the fact they were carried out overseas.

The French warrant will now be considered through a complex and painstaking process in Ireland involving the Department of Justice, the Attorney General, the gardai, the High Court and, potentially, the Supreme Court.

One legal expert said the process could take more than a year to resolve -- or even longer if lengthy appeals are to be involved.

The blood-soaked body of Sophie Toscan du Plantier was discovered at the bottom of a laneway leading from her holiday-home at Toormore, outside Schull in west Cork, after she had apparently tried to flee from her attacker.

Sophie died from horrific head injuries.

It is believed her clothing may have gotten caught on barbed wire by a field as she fled her assailant -- crucially giving him time to catch and kill her.

The murder weapon has never been recovered.

Despite the fact the killing occurred 14 years ago, gardai insist the murder file is still open and active.

Gardai twice arrested Mr Bailey for questioning in relation to the matter in February 1997 and January 1998 -- but he was released without charge on both occasions.

Mr Bailey has consistently protested his innocence -- and claimed that sinister attempts were being made to frame him for the crime.

Many details of the case only emerged through a series of high-profile libel actions taken by Mr Bailey in November and December 2003 against a number of British and Irish newspapers in Cork Circuit Civil Court.

Mr Bailey lost a number of those actions and later took the cases on appeal to the High Court.

A native of Manchester, Mr Bailey relocated to Ireland in 1991 and, despite a brief period in Co Wicklow, has lived in west Cork for his entire time in the country.

He had worked as a freelance journalist for BBC West, HTV, The Times and the Daily Telegraph in the UK but, after separating from his first wife, decided to build a new life for himself in Ireland.

He has variously worked as a reporter, a 'New Age' gardener, a fish factory employee and at a west Cork farmers' market.

Mr Bailey is currently in the final year of his legal studies at University College Cork (UCC), where he is due to start sitting his final exams next month.

Sunday Independent

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