Saturday 20 January 2018

Legal source told DPP of Sophie issues

Timing questioned as prime suspect Bailey was about to appeal extradition

UNSOLVED: Film maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier was killed
in Co Cork in 1996 - nobody has yet been charged
UNSOLVED: Film maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier was killed in Co Cork in 1996 - nobody has yet been charged


THE surprise disclosure of sensitive state documents critical of the garda investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier was sparked by a legal source who alerted the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to concerns about the case.

It is understood that the legal source was in contact with the DPP in mid-October with concerns about the original garda investigation into the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier, according to a source.

This person's concerns are believed to centre on a meeting between State prosecutors and gardai in 1998 after their then prime suspect, Ian Bailey, was arrested, according to the source.

This external intervention by a third party prompted the review of case papers in the DPP's office, according to the informed source. It led directly to the Attorney General, Marie Whelan, ordering the dramatic disclosure a fortnight ago of internal state papers criticising the investigation to Mr Bailey and to French authorities seeking his extradition.

The documents included an account of the legal source's concerns from 1998 and a second report from 2001 in which the DPP's office criticises the garda investigation.

It is understood that both sides were told the documents were being released in the interests of justice.

The timing of the intervention by the third-party legal source was critical, coming weeks before the Supreme Court was due to hear an appeal of Mr Bailey's extradition to France.

The extradition proceedings have been thrown into disarray, to the anger and "astonishment" of Ms Toscan Du Plantier's family.

The 39-year-old French film producer was beaten to death outside her holiday home in Schull, Co Cork, in December 1996. Ian Bailey, a journalist living near Schull, was twice arrested but never charged in connection with her murder. The French subsequently took up the investigation and last March the High Court ordered Mr Bailey's extradition to France.

His legal team have postponed the extradition appeal on foot of the new material, claiming the documents reveal "breathtaking" wrongdoing and "misbehaviour" in the garda investigation.

Ms Toscan du Plantier's family were last week said to be puzzled as to the timing and the reasons for the document disclosures. They have asked the French justice ministry to request an explanation from Alan Shatter, the Minister for Justice, and whether there is a precedent for the DPP to release internal documents to a suspect.

French investigators insist the extradition should proceed regardless of the criticisms of the original garda investigation. They say they have launched a fresh investigation, re-interviewing witnesses and conducting fresh forensic tests.

"The role of the Supreme Court is not to examine the detail of the investigation," said a source to the French investigation.

The case is likely to be back before the Supreme Court in the coming weeks.

Mr Bailey has long claimed that he was wrongly targeted in the investigation into the death. His senior counsel, Martin Giblin, claimed that if they had the new material when Mr Bailey's extradition came before the High Court last March, they would have made stronger submissions in relation to "garda misbehaviour".

Garda sources contacted by the Sunday Independent questioned whether documents were being selectively disclosed to Mr Bailey and French investigators, arguing that documents in their entirety should be released. One source said the DPP's critique of the garda investigation in 2001 was answered fully at the time and was fully investigated by a subsequent internal inquiry.

The McAndrews inquiry was launched after a key witness, Marie Farrell, withdrew her evidence against Mr Bailey, claiming she had given it under duress. The inquiry report was never published but no disciplinary action followed.

A spokesperson for Mr Shatter said this weekend: "As the extradition proceedings, to which the minister is a party, are before the courts, at present the minister is precluded for the present from making any public statement other than to confirm that upon the DPP furnishing to the minister material in his possession unknown to the minister, the minister dealt with the matter expeditiously fully in accordance with advice from the Attorney General."

Sunday Independent

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