Tuesday 12 November 2019

State seeks to halt damages action by Jules Thomas over Sophie Toscan du Plantier investigation

Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas arrive at the Four Courts in Dublin, March 30 (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas arrive at the Four Courts in Dublin, March 30 (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

The State has moved to halt an action for damages brought against it by Jules Thomas, the long-time partner of Ian Bailey, alleging she was twice wrongfully arrested by gardai investigating the late 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Mr Justice John Hedigan was told today an application to have Ms Thomas' case struck out on grounds it was brought outside the applicable six year time limits set by the Statute of Limitations is being prepared.

The judge told David Lennon BL, for the Garda Commissioner and State, the strike out application could be listed before the High Court on May 11th when the judge will also be dealing with liability for the substantial costs of Mr Bailey's own failed case against the State.

The costs of Mr Bailey's 64 day action, which concluded on March 30th last, are expected to be at least €2m and could be as high as €5m.

Today, Mr Lennon said the sides had agreed the costs issues could be adjourned to May 11th.

Mr Bailey's side were not in court for the brief mention of the matter but it is believed Mr Bailey is actively considering an appeal against the dismissal of his case.

Mr Lennon also told the judge his side would be bringing an application have Ms Thomas' separate civil case -  in which she is claiming damages on grounds including she was wrongfully arrested in February 1997 and in 2000 in connection with the murder of Ms Toscan du Planter - struck out on grounds it is statute barred.

On the 60th day of Mr Bailey's case, the State made a similar application under the statute to have Mr Bailey's case wholly or partly struck out. Mr Bailey's side opposed that application.

On day 62, Mr Justice Hedigan agreed to strike out many of the claims, including Mr Bailey's claims of wrongful arrest in 1997 and 1998, on grounds those were statute barred.

The judge permitted Mr Bailey's claim that gardai conspired to implicate him in the murder to get to the jury for consideration and the jury rejected that claim.

Ms Thomas' case was parked pending the outcome of Mr Bailey's case and is listed for mention in the next High Court list in May to fix dates for jury trials.

Last month, the jury of seven men and four women took just over two hours to reach their unanimous verdict dismissing Mr Bailey's civil action for damages over the investigation into the murder of the French film-maker whose body was found near Toomore, Schull, on December 23rd 1996.

After the verdict was delivered on March 30th last, Mr Justice Hedigan said the shadow of the late Sophie Toscan du Plantier and her "tragic, senseless" death had always been in this case.

"It is a source of dismay and anguish in both Ireland and France that her killer has not been brought to justice," he said. A beloved mother, wife and daughter, I do not want it thought that her life was forgotten here in this court."

The judge also said he was referring a transcript of the evidence of witness Marie Farrell evidence in this case to the DPP for whatever action the Director might "deem appropriate".

The jury were given two questions to answer when considering their verdict.

The first was: “Did Gardai Jim Fitzgerald, Kevin Kelleher and Jim Slattery or any combination of them conspire together to implicate Mr Bailey in the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier by obtaining statements from Marie Farrell by threats, inducements or intimidation which purportedly identified him as the man she saw at Kealfadda Bridge in the early hours of December 23rd 1996m, when they knew they were false?”

The second was: “Did Det Garda Fitzgerald and Sergeant Maurice Walsh conspire by threats, inducements or intimidation to get statements from Marie Farrell that Ian Bailey had intimidated her, when they knew they were false?”

Because the jury answered No to both questions there was no need to consider whether Mr Bailey had suffered loss entitling him to damages. Mr Bailey claimed damages, including exemplary damages, over the conduct of the investigation.

The case opened on November 4th and the verdict came on its 64th day. Evidence was heard from 93 witnesses, 21 called by Mr Bailey and 72 of behalf of the State.  Initiated in May 2007, the case involved claims of wrongful arrest, conspiracy, false imprisonment, assault and trespass against the person and intentional infliction of emotional harm.

The defendants denied all the claims.

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