Friday 6 December 2019

Garda contact with media 'beyond belief' in Sophie case

Ian Bailey
Ian Bailey

Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor

THE level of contact between journalists and gardai investigating the death of French film maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier was "beyond belief", according to lawyers for Ian Bailey.

Yesterday the High Court heard that there were "hundreds and hundreds" of contacts between gardai and journalists on tapes that have been disclosed by the State to Mr Bailey's legal team.

Mr Bailey, who is no longer considered a suspect in Ms Du Plantier's killing, is suing the State for alleged wrongful arrest.

He was arrested twice in connection with the 1996 killing, and has always maintained his innocence.

His civil case came back before the High Court on foot of a motion by Mr Bailey to strike out State's defence for failing to comply with discovery or disclosure orders.

Mr Bailey's civil action will be tried before a jury and is expected to be heard in the November jury list.

High Court judge Mr Justice John Hedigan heard that 12 bankers' boxes have been disclosed by the State in the last two weeks. They have not yet been processed by Mr Bailey's advisers.

Judge Hedigan heard there were now more than 130 separate tape recordings linked to the Sophie Toscan du Plantier case.

"This material is all entirely new to us, we were not aware of its existence," said Martin Giblin, Mr Bailey's senior counsel. He said it was the State's position that it had no corporate knowledge of the taped recordings. "Obviously someone in An Garda Siochana knew about it," added Mr Giblin.

"There has been an extraordinary level of communication between the gardai and the media of which we were unaware," said Mr Giblin.

Mr Bailey's legal team want to identify three senior gardai named in a document prepared in the office of the DPP.

"We are talking about events from a very long time ago," said Judge Hedigan, who enquired when the case brought by Mr Bailey, and a separate but related action by his partner Jules Thomas, may conclude.

Senior Counsel Paul O'Higgins, for the state parties, asked the High Court to adjourn the case for six weeks.

He said that it was an "impossible task" to seek to have the joint cases heard before the end of the summer term.

The judge issued a warning to the media during the brief hearing, not aimed at the parties in the case or to any particular group of persons. He said he was making it generally with the aim of ensuring a fair trial.

Judge Hedigan warned that commentary upon and prejudgment of intended evidence, not even produced before the court, much less assessed by it, is capable of impeding or prejudicing the course of justice in any proceedings and great care should be made to avoid doing so.

Irish Independent

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