Thursday 22 March 2018

Du Plantiers 'pleased' as extradition hearing goes ahead

Ralph Riegel and Aoife Finneran

THE family of slain French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier expressed relief last night at the Supreme Court's ruling that a landmark extradition hearing should proceed as "an urgent matter".

The Supreme Court is now to hear the appeal by Manchester-born former freelance journalist Ian Bailey (54) on January 16.

He is appealing against his extradition to France for possible trial over the mother-of-one's death 15 years ago.

The hearing will take three days.

Mr Bailey -- who has vehemently protested his innocence -- is challenging a High Court extradition order granted to Paris-based magistrate Patrick Gachon who is investigating the killing of Ms du Plantier on December 23, 1996.

Mr Bailey's legal team sought a postponement of the extradition hearing -- which was due to take place last month -- after dramatic new material came to light.

Last night, Ms Toscan du Plantier's family solicitor, Alain Spilliaert, said they were "relieved and very pleased" that the extradition hearing would proceed in six weeks' time.

"We are very pleased -- this is very good news today," he told the Irish Independent.

"We are relieved because our fear was that the hearing could have been postponed for a very long time."

Mr Spilliaert said Ms Toscan du Plantier's parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, were particularly pleased that the Chief Justice Ms Susan Denham said the extradition hearing should be treated as "an urgent matter".

"I spoke to them just 15 minutes ago and they had the same reaction -- they are pleased that this will go ahead on January 16," he added.

The family had insisted the extradition hearing should proceed irrespective of shock new material which came to light last month.

The Supreme Court appeal by Mr Bailey -- a self-confessed suspect in the case -- was postponed after it emerged the State had provided new material to both the defence legal team and the French authorities.

Mr Bailey's solicitor, Frank Buttimer, said the material involved was "unprecedented by any standards" and hinted at "breathtaking wrong-doing" by state officials.

Yesterday, lawyers for the State told the court: "Three weeks have gone by and I think it was anticipated an application would be brought by now. Last night we received a fairly lengthy letter raising certain queries off our side."

Ms Justice Denham agreed to adjourn the case for mention next week to allow lawyers for Mr Bailey to consider responses to the queries raised.

She proposed putting the appeal into the start of the next law term because "the matter has gone by for several weeks now and it is an urgent matter".

Ms Toscan du Plantier was found battered to death at the foot of a laneway leading to her isolated holiday home at Toormore, outside Schull in west Cork, in 1996.

Mr Gachon -- who has been conducting a three-year probe into the killing -- issued a European Arrest Warrant for Mr Bailey in April 2010.

Mr Bailey's legal team claimed the new material would have "a significant" impact on the extradition case and its appeal.

However, Mr Spilliaert told the Irish Independent it was not believed that the issues raised by the new material should derail the extradition process.

"The issues here are that it is the duty of the court to consider that the French judicial system is recognised as protecting the rights of the defence side. Therefore, whatever claims Mr Bailey may have against the Irish police in the past is not relevant to the point," he added.

Irish Independent

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