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Lawyers for State tell High Court that 'in bizarre way' Ireland has become 'safe haven' for Ian Bailey

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Ian Bailey (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ian Bailey (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ian Bailey (Brian Lawless/PA)

Lawyers for the State have told the High Court that "in a bizarre way" Ireland has become a "safe haven" for Ian Bailey, who is facing a 25-year prison sentence for the murder of filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier in France.

Counsel for the Minister for Justice, Mr Robert Barron SC today told the High Court that the family of Ms du Plantier feel they have not achieved justice.

This is the third time French authorities are seeking Mr Bailey’s surrender in relation to the death of Ms du Plantier, whose badly beaten body was found outside her holiday home in Schull in December 1996.

The Englishman (63), with an address at The Prairie, Liscaha, Schull, west Cork, was convicted of the French woman’s murder in his absence in a Paris court in May 2019. The three-judge Cour d’Assises (criminal trial court) in Paris accordingly imposed a 25-year prison sentence on Mr Bailey in his absence. Mr Bailey, who denies any involvement in Ms du Plantier's death, did not attend the French court and had no legal representation in the proceedings, which he has described as a “farce”.

In his sworn affidavit, Mr Bailey said he had nothing to do with the murder of Ms du Plantier. He said that whilst he has not been the subject of criminal court proceedings in Ireland, he has been subject to the criminal process and his standing had suffered greatly in the small rural community where he lives. He tries not to dwell "on being hunted" and writing poetry has had a cathartic effect on him, he said.

Mr Bailey was arrested at the Criminal Courts of Justice Building on foot of a European Arrest Warrant in December 2019. He was remanded on bail after a High Court judge subsequently endorsed the third European Arrest Warrant (EAW) seeking his extradition to France.

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Sophie Toscan du Plantier (Family handout/PA)

Sophie Toscan du Plantier (Family handout/PA)

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Sophie Toscan du Plantier (Family handout/PA)

On the last day of the extradition hearing, Counsel for the State, Mr Barron, said Mr Bailey had said in his affidavit that the effect of the EAW against him meant he was effectively confined to Ireland and could not leave the jurisdiction.

Mr Barron said the reason the respondent could not go to his mother's funeral in May 2013 in the UK was because French authorities were looking for his surrender. "Ireland has become a safe haven for Mr Bailey in a bizarre way because he cannot travel anywhere outside the European Union for risk of being arrested," he said, adding that the former journalist had chosen not to surrender himself to French authorities. He added that the family of Ms du Plantier felt they have not achieved justice.

In a sworn affidavit opened to the High Court on Wednesday, Mr Bailey said he had been greatly restrained and unable to travel freely since the issuing of the EAW in 2010. He explained in the affidavit that he was unable to visit his mother in a nursing home in the UK or attend her funeral, something he said "had been one of the cruelest aspects of this entire process".

The judge presiding over the extradition hearing Mr Justice Paul Burns interjected at this point and said that he interpreted this as meaning that Mr Bailey would be arrested if he left Ireland and would have to go through another process of being extradited.

Furthermore, Mr Barron said that the Irish High Court does not know what evidence would be available to the French authorities in the case of a retrial for Mr Bailey in France and what issues would likely arise. "It is impossible to make a judgment of fair procedures until we actually know who turns up for the trial. We are completely in the dark," he submitted. He asked how could the High Court decide if it would be a fair trial, when one knows nothing concerning what the retrial would be about.

French authorities previously sought the surrender of Mr Bailey in 2010 but this application was refused by the Supreme Court in 2012, which held that section 44 of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 prohibited surrender because the alleged offence was committed outside French territory and Irish law did not allow prosecution for the same offence when committed outside its territory by a non-Irish citizen. Mr Bailey is a British citizen.

A second French extradition request in respect of Mr Bailey was dismissed as an “abuse of process” by the High Court in July 2017. On that occasion, Mr Justice Tony Hunt held that the “unique features” of the case justified “termination” of the proceedings. He said the Minister was “estopped” or halted from obtaining an order for Mr Bailey's surrender in light of the Supreme Court's judgement in 2012 on identical relevant facts.

Mr Bailey is present in court for today's hearing. Filmmaker Jim Sheridan has also attended each day of the hearing.

Mr Barron will continue his legal submissions before Mr Justice Burns this afternoon.

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