Monday 19 March 2018

Du Plantier probe 'flawed' and 'prejudiced' -- shock

Former DPP has told authorities of 'improper' garda attempts to have Ian Bailey charged with murder

Ian Bailey and his partner Jules Thomas outside the High
Court in Dublin
Ian Bailey and his partner Jules Thomas outside the High Court in Dublin
SEARCH FOR JUSTICE: Murder victim Sophie Toscan du Plantier
the French investigation team visiting the scene of her murder in west Cork


A RETIRED Director of Public Prosecutions has told the State authorities that gardai made a "grossly improper" attempt to influence a prosecution for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Eamonn Barnes claimed that in 1998 he was told of an attempt to put pressure on his office to bring a murder charge against the prime suspect for Ms Toscan du Plantier's murder, Ian Bailey.

In an extraordinary intervention, Mr Barnes disclosed the information in an email to his former colleagues in the DPP's office in October, weeks before the Supreme Court was due to hear Mr Bailey's appeal against his extradition.

Mr Barnes revealed that in 1998, he got a call from the State solicitor for west Cork, Malachy Boohig, who said gardai were keen to secure a prosecution. Mr Boohig told Mr Barnes that he was asked to a meeting with three senior gardai. According to his account, the officers made it known they were under pressure to secure a charge.

After the meeting, a garda followed Mr Boohig outside and asked him if he had been at school with John O'Dongohue, then Minister for Justice. The garda then urged the solicitor to ask the minister to use his influence to help get a charge.

The attempted interference was taken seriously by Mr Barnes although no further action followed.

Mr Barnes's account was supported by Mr Boohig, who also recently furnished a memo giving his account of the improper approach to the DPP. This was further supported by a contemporaneous note taken by an official present at the 1998 meeting.

Mr Barnes is understood to have disclosed the information to the state authorities "in the interests of justice" on October 12.

It's understood that he was concerned Mr Bailey could face trial in France on foot of what he believed to be a "flawed" and "prejudiced" investigation and a "grossly improper" attempt to get a prosecution.

Last month, in an unprecedented move, the Attorney General, Marie Whelan, advised that the Barnes correspondence, along with a highly critical 44-page review of evidence, should be released to Mr Bailey and to the French in the interests of justice.

Mr Bailey was twice arrested but never charged with the murder of Ms du Plantier, 39, in December 1996. He has repeatedly protested his innocence. He has claimed that he was "set up" and has accused gardai of trying to frame him.

The Supreme Court appeal hearing of his extradition has been adjourned to January on foot of the unprecedented release of documents. His legal team want the Supreme Court to refer the case back to the High Court for a re-hearing in light of the "new information".

The contents of the 44-page review of evidence, coupled with Mr Barnes's disclosures, suggest there was considerable disquiet in the state prosecutor's office about the investigation of Mr Bailey, the treatment of some witnesses, the unreliability of others, and the absence of any concrete evidence against him.

The report said the garda investigation into Ms du Plantier's death has effectively "destroyed" the quality of life for Mr Bailey and his partner, Jules Thomas. It also makes serious allegations against gardai in relation to how witnesses were encouraged to make statements.

It repeatedly referred to indications of Mr Bailey's "innocence" such as his willingness to give blood samples and hair samples. It criticised the arrest of Ms Thomas, Mr Bailey's partner, as possibly illegal and noted that, in fact, the DPP's office had advised against her arrest.

The report also highlights how neighbours in the vicinity of Ms du Plantier's holiday home reported that their dogs started barking on the night of the murder from 10pm for up to three hours, an indication of a disturbance in the area. At that time, Mr Bailey was in the pub.

Mr Barnes declined to comment this weekend. Mr Boohig could not be contacted.

Sunday Independent

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