Monday 19 August 2019

Former DPP rejects criticisms from French authorities that Ireland 'failed' to prosecute Ian Bailey

Hamilton insists decision by two DPPs not to prosecute Bailey for murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier not 'failure' of Irish law

Ian Bailey convicted in absentia of murder. Picture: Mark Condren
Ian Bailey convicted in absentia of murder. Picture: Mark Condren
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The former Director of Public Prosecutions has rejected claims by the French authorities that Ireland "failed" to prosecute Ian Bailey for murder.

James Hamilton, who retired as DPP in 2011, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Mr Bailey for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier under Irish law.

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The DPP's refusal to prosecute Mr Bailey was repeatedly presented by French prosecutors as a "failure" during the former journalist's trial in absentia for murder. Mr Bailey was convicted by the Paris court last Friday.

In a statement to this newspaper, Mr Hamilton noted that "evidence means facts" and "does not include material which is merely prejudicial such as hearsay, rumour, innuendo, speculation, suspicion, gossip and evidence of bad character lacking any evidential link to the offence charged".

After being asked to comment, Mr Hamilton provided a statement to the Sunday Independent.

It begins: "I do not think it would be appropriate for me to make any comment on the trial in his absence in Paris of Ian Bailey for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. My sole source of information about that trial is contained in the press reports of it. However, I noted that in the course of the trial the prosecution authorities in Ireland were criticised for their 'failure' to bring Ian Bailey to trial for the murder in Ireland.

"Sophie Toscan du Plantier was brutally murdered in December 1996. My predecessor as DPP, the late Eamonn Barnes, decided in 1997 that there was not sufficient evidence to try Ian Bailey for the murder. However, he deferred a final decision to enable the Garda Siochana to conduct further enquiries.

"In 1999, following my appointment as DPP and having considered the result of those further enquiries, I decided that there was still insufficient evidence to prosecute Ian Bailey. Before making that decision I had the benefit of the advice of senior counsel who had arrived at the same conclusion. My decision was subsequently reviewed by me again some years later following a Garda re-examination of the case but my decision remained that the evidence was still insufficient to warrant a prosecution.

"It is important to emphasise that these decisions did not amount to any failure by me or my predecessor to exercise our functions but rather were made in exercise of our duty to determine whether there was a proper basis in Irish law to bring a prosecution. The decisions were also fully in accordance with the DPP's own published guidelines."

The statement continued: "In Irish law it is possible to convict a person only on the basis of admissible and credible evidence given orally in court by witnesses which is relevant to the offence charged and a jury must be convinced of the case against the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Evidence means facts which prove the case against the accused and does not include material which is merely prejudicial such as hearsay, rumour, innuendo, speculation, suspicion, gossip and evidence of bad character lacking any evidential link to the offence charged. The Irish courts will refuse to admit into evidence material which is prejudicial but lacking in evidential value.

"A large quantity of such material does not, in the Irish legal system, add up to a case.

"I do not propose to comment further on the substance of the case alleged against Ian Bailey in the Garda Siochana file. My reasons for the decision not to prosecute were fully set out in a memorandum prepared in my office and approved by me which was sent to the Garda Siochana and my decision was never challenged by the Garda to me. That memorandum was provided to Ian Bailey's solicitor when his client was at risk of being extradited and has, I believe since entered the public arena."

The memo referred to is the now infamous 44-page critique of the Garda's evidence.

Sunday Independent

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