Saturday 21 April 2018

Sophie family still want Bailey trial in France

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

THE family of slain Sophie Toscan du Plantier are hopeful that Ian Bailey will be tried in France in 2014 -- even in his absence.

A team of French detectives is heading to Ireland for the final time in mid-November as they continue to probe the death of the 39-year-old film maker.

The detectives will complete a final round of interviews with people who made statements to gardai as part of their original investigation into the 1996 killing.

No date has been set for the French police team to travel to west Cork, as negotiations are still underway with a number of the people to be interviewed. However, the team is expected to visit Dublin and west Cork next month.

Alain Spilliaert, lawyer for Sophie's parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, said the interviews are required to deal with matters which arose when French detectives were in Ireland in October 2011.

Mr Spilliaert told the Irish Independent that Paris magistrate Patrick Gachon hopes to conclude his probe by December and will then study the case file before making his recommendation in early 2013.

"We are hopeful a trial will take place in France -- but that will probably not happen until the next year (2014)," he said.

It is expected that Mr Gachon will recommend that a French trial should take place, but his ruling must then be referred to a special court called a Chambre d'Accusation. This three-judge panel must decide if a trial -- particularly a trial in absentia -- should take place.

Mr Spilliaert said that any such trial would inevitably take place in 2014 given the legal issues involved and the sheer size of the case file.

The Supreme Court refused last March to extradite Mr Bailey to France on foot of a European Arrest Warrant.

Mr Bailey -- who is now suing the State for wrongful arrest -- has consistently maintained his innocence over Sophie's death at her Toormore holiday home outside Schull on December 23 1996.

She was found bludgeoned to death on the laneway leading to her holiday home hours before she was due to fly back to Paris.

Mr Bailey -- who has lodged a complaint over the actions of officers with the Garda Ombudsman Commission -- has alleged that efforts were made to frame him for the crime.

Mr Bailey's solicitor, Frank Buttimer, has repeatedly criticised the French approach to the matter. "I find the French attitude towards the Irish judicial system to be beyond disrespectful," he said.

Under Napoleonic law, a trial can be held in France irrespective of where a killing took place -- once the crime involved a French national.

Irish Independent

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