Monday 23 April 2018

Level of contact between media and gardai on du Plantier death 'beyond belief' - Ian Bailey's legal team

Ian Bailey
Ian Bailey
Sophie Toscan du Plantier

Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor

THE level of contact between journalists and gardai investigating the 1996 death of French film maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier has been described as "beyond belief" by lawyers for Ian Bailey.

This morning,  the High Court heard that there were "hundreds and hundreds" of contacts between gardai and journalists on tapes that have been disclosed by the State to Mr Bailey's legal team.

Mr Bailey, who is no longer considered a suspect in Ms Du Plantier's killing, is currently suing the state for alleged wrongful arrest.

The matter came back before the High Court this morning on foot of a motion by Mr Bailey to strike out State's defence for  failing to comply with discovery orders.

Mr Bailey's civil action will be tried before a jury and has been adjourned to the November jury list.

High Court judge Mr Justice John Hedigan heard this morning that 12 bankers boxes have been disclosed by the State in the last two weeks.

They have not yet been processed by Mr Baileys advisers.

Judge Hedigan heard there are now over 130 separate tape recordings linked to the Sophie Toscan du Plantier case.

The tapes, which have been transcribed by gardai, were described as "entirely new" and having "differential quality" by Martin Giblin, Mr Bailey's Senior Counsel. .

"This material is all entirely knew to us, we were not aware of its existence," said Mr Giblin who said it was the State's position that it had no corporate knowledge of the tapedrecordings.

" Obviously someone in An Garda Siochana knew about it," added Mr Giblin.

"There has been an extraordinary level of communication between the gardai and the media of which we were unaware," said Mr Giblin.

Mr Giblin said that level of contact between gardai and journalists in the material  is "beyond belief"

Mr Bailey's legal team want to identify three senior gardai named in a document prepared in the office of the DPP, a move that  will involve an application for non party disclosure from the Office of the DPP.

"We are talking about events from a very long time ago," said Judge Hedigan who enquired when the case brought by Mr Bailey and a separate but related action by his partner Jules Thomas may conclude.

Senior Counsel Paul O'Higgins, for the State parties, asked the High Court to adjourn the case for six weeks.

Mr O'Higgins, said that he was not commenting on remarks about garda contact with the media.

Mr O'Higgins said that it was an "impossible task" to seek to have the joint cases heard before the end of the summer term.

The judge issued a warning to the media during the brief hearing, not aimed at the parties in the case or to any particular group of persons. He said he was making it generally with the aim of ensuring a fair trial.

"The courts do not seek or wish to restrict vigorous discussion by the media or the publication of matters of great interest and importance.

"The courts in fact are the very place to which people come in order to vindicate their right to discussion of such matters.

"A word of caution however, may be appropriate where that discussion involves matters that have been brought before the courts for determination and resolution."

Judge Hedigan warned that commentary upon, and prejudgment of intended evidence, not even produced before the court, much less assessed by it, is capable of impeding or prejudicing the course of justice in any proceedings and should be made with great care to avoid doing so.

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