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Saturday 15 December 2018

Sophie trial in Paris to cost France up to €3m

Sophie Toscan du Plantier
Sophie Toscan du Plantier

Ralph Riegel

The investigation and prosecution of Ian Bailey (60) over the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier is set to cost France more than €3m.

The revelation came as the Manchester-born freelance journalist now has only a single avenue of appeal left to block French plans to stage a Paris trial over the death of the mother of one almost 22 years ago.

The French film executive was found battered to death on a laneway leading to her isolated holiday home at Toormore outside Schull on December 23, 1996.

No one has ever been charged with her death in Ireland, despite one of the biggest Garda murder investigations in history.

Mr Bailey, who moved to Ireland in 1991, was twice arrested by gardai for questioning. He was released without charge on both occasions in 1997 and 1998.

Since then, Mr Bailey has insisted that "sinister attempts" were made to frame him for the crime.

He has vigorously protested his innocence and sued eight Irish and British newspapers for defamation in 2003 over their coverage of the murder. The journalist has also sued the State for wrongful arrest.

Mr Bailey insisted that, despite the Chamber d'Instruction last Thursday rejecting his appeal against being charged and prosecuted, he intends to fight on.

"I believe this will all only end with my death," he warned. "Or, the second alternative is if the French convict me of murder in my absence at a Paris trial."

Mr Bailey also said he discovered in February 2013 that a letter was on file in the Department of Justice which afforded him the opportunity to offer his evidence directly to the French magistrate and police. However, he was never facilitated in telling his story directly to the French.

"There was one document in particular which jumped out at me when I went through it [the file]," he said.

"It was dated February 2013 where the French authorities had written to the Department of Justice informing them that I had the right of being interviewed by them and putting my side... the French authorities asked the Department to write to me to help set up this meeting.

"That letter was never written. Why wasn't I afforded my constitutional right?"

The three-judge Chamber d'Instruction ruled that there were "sufficient grounds" for Mr Bailey to face a prosecution in France. The ruling can now be challenged to France's highest appeal court, the Cour de Cassation.

French prosecutors privately anticipate that such an appeal will be lodged. Defence legal counsel Dominique Tricaud admitted that the ruling of the Chamber d'Instruction had been expected with a widely held belief that a trial in absentia was always likely to be sanctioned.

The French failed in a 2012 bid to have Mr Bailey extradited with the Supreme Court rejecting the application.

A fresh European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was issued two years ago. Mr Tricaud said he will now be consulting with his client over any potential appeal. Such an appeal, if it happens, will likely taken between six and nine months to resolve.

Mr Bailey's Irish solicitor, Frank Buttimer, described what was happening in France as "farcical".

Sunday Independent

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