UK-born journalist Ian Bailey has been ordered to pay a total of €225,000 in damages to the French state and to the family of murdered film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
Mr Bailey (62) was convicted of the murder of Ms du Plantier (39) by a Paris court last month, and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. A warrant for his arrest is in process.
He has consistently denied the charges, and did not attend the week-long trial, which his lawyer, Frank Buttimer, called a “grotesque miscarriage of justice”.
More than half of the money - €115,000 - will go compensate a state guarantee fund for victims of terrorism and other offences (FGTI), which advanced the payment to Ms du Plantier’s family on foot of a high court order in March 2013. It’s the same fund that was used to aid victims of the July 2016 truck attack in Nice and the November 2015 Paris terror attacks.
Damages totalling an extra €110,000 have also been awarded to seven of Ms du Plantier’s family members, with the bulk of the money going to her son and her parents. Her brothers, aunt and uncle were also named in an 11 June “civil judgment”.
Mr Bailey has 10 years to make the payment, after which time it will become unenforceable.
A lawyer for the family, Alain Spilliaert, said the decision was largely “symbolic”. He doesn’t expect the state to recoup its €115,000 advance payment, or for the family to receive the extra 4110,000. But he said the award was “important from a psychological point of view”.
According to the judgment, Ms du Plantier’s parents, Marguerite and Georges Bouniol, and her 38-year-old son, Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud, were awarded €25,000 each in damages.
Ms du Plantier’s brothers, Bertrand and Stéphane Bouniol, and her aunt, Marie Madeleine Opalka, were awarded €10,000 each. Her uncle, Jean-Pierre Gazeau, was awarded 5000.
A court spokesperson said the decision was “sovereign”, and based on applications made by the family and supporting documents. The appeal for the €110,000 in extra compensation was made after the guilty verdict was handed down on 31 May.
The judgment, lodged by Judge Frédérique Aline - who headed the three-judge panel that heard the case - holds Mr Bailey “entirely responsible” for the "personal injury” suffered by Ms du Plantier’s family.
It describes Mr Bailey as “on the run” and “wanted”, and says there has been “actual and certain” harm done to the family, “resulting directly from the acts for which Mr Bailey was convicted”.
Ms du Plantier was battered to death at her holiday home in Toormore, near Schull in west Cork, just before Christmas 1996.
Nobody has been convicted of her murder in Ireland because the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) could not find “sufficient evidence”.
Lawyers for the family said the case can’t be considered closed in Ireland because the DPP never reached a conclusion.
French public prosecutor Jean-Pierre Bonthoux last month criticised a 2011 DPP report into the murder and the Gardaí’s handling of the case, and accused Mr Bailey of “cowardice for failing to attend the trial.
Mr Bailey’s conviction was the result of 23 years of campaigning by Ms du Plantier’s family, who made a criminal complaint to the French authorities as far back as 1997. French investigators exhumed Ms du Plantier’s body in 2008, which officially opened the French case.
Under French law, "civil parties” can file a complaint in a criminal case, which must then be officially investigated by the judicial authorities (usually a public prosecutor and investigating judge).
Compensation can be paid out in advance as part of a ‘civil action within criminal proceedings’, to speed up the process.