Evidence doesn’t support family’s belief Ian Bailey got away with murder
While Ian Bailey will enjoy a huge surge of relief, Ms Du Plantier’s family will be distraught Mon, 12 Oct 2020
Ian Bailey is not going to France.
Not for now, anyway.
Today, the High Court rejected the third attempt to extradite him for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, who died violently outside her holiday home in West Cork on December 23 1996.
Mr Bailey has always denied having anything to do with the crime.
In May of last year, a Paris court found him guilty of the murder in absentia.
He was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison and the latest attempt to have him extradited was launched a month after the guilty verdict.
Despite that, Judge Paul Burns today ruled against the application to have him extradited under a European Arrest Warrant.
The judge stated that the change in the law in Ireland on extraterritorial jurisdiction did not create a situation where Ireland and France had reciprocal laws that would allow Mr Bailey’s extradition.
As a result, Mr Bailey was still protected by a previous ruling which stated that he could only be surrendered to France if the offence was committed in that country.
He also noted that the second attempt undertaken by the French had been ruled to be an abuse of process.
The result lifts a weight from Mr Bailey that he has borne for over a decade since the French began investigating the murder.
In 1997 and 1998 he was arrested in this jurisdiction in connection with the du Plantier case but never charged.
The DPP has ruled on a number of different occasions that he has no case to answer.
While he will enjoy a huge surge of relief, Ms Du Plantier’s family will be distraught.
They have fought since soon after her brutal killing to attain justice.
From early on they agreed with the gardaí’s initial analysis that Mr Bailey was the chief suspect.
After a long campaign, the family managed to get the French authorities to investigate the murder under a Napoleonic law that permits the examination of a crime against a French citizen abroad.
That process saw French detectives arrive in west Cork and conduct their own investigation.
Eventually, last May, this culminated in a murder trial in Paris Palais de Justice.
The five-day trial was conducted without any representation for Mr Bailey — who failed to appear — and was argued by lawyers for both the French state and the victim’s family.
Mr Bailey has described the trial as “a farce”.
Anybody from this jurisdiction who attended it would find that description appropriate.
The hearing had the character of a ready-up, designed to confirm guilt rather than coldly examine the facts within a framework of checks and balances.
One aspect to it spoke volumes.
There were 22 witnesses listed, nearly all of whom were based in West Cork.
These witnesses were given two weeks notice of the trial and expected to travel to Paris, find accommodation as required, give evidence, and wait to be reimbursed by the French state.
Just two travelled.
Another listed witness is deceased and yet another understood to be suffering from a form of dementia.
In a proper trial the testimony of these witnesses — most of whom had interactions with Mr Bailey — would surely have been given serious importance.
Yet the manner that it was handled here suggests that the witnesses were little more than an added extra, who might bring a bit of colour to proceedings but whose input was not central to the case.
The trial also included a psychological profile from a professional who had never met Mr Bailey, not to mind interviewed him.
He concluded that the defendant had a “borderline personality”.
Ian Bailey outside the High Court yesterday. Picture: Niall Carson/PA
Any result but guilty would have been a bombshell.
There appeared to be two main issues driving the trial.
In the first instance, there was an obvious wish to bring some kind of solace or closure to the bereaved family.
Ms du Plantier’s son, Pierre Louis Baudey, was present for the whole trial and spoke movingly about his relationship with his mother and his loss at the age of 15.
Other relatives and friends also spoke. Their pain was still manifest over twenty-three years after her death.
The other apparent motivation for the trial was to provide ballast to another attempt to have Bailey extradited.
Had the effort been successful, he would have been subjected to a second trial, this time with a jury of six deciding rather than the three judges.
Now that prospect looks like it has receded.
The application under the European Arrest Warrrent was issued in June 2019 on foot of the guilty verdict.
It was rooted in a combination of a change in the law since the last application and the conviction for murder.
Judge Burns ruled on the law issue in favour of Bailey and was not required to examine in any detail the murder conviction.
“Ian Bailey is very relieved that the legal arguments put forward were substantially accepted by Judge Burns,” Mr Bailey’s solicitor, Frank Buttimer said.
“He has lived with this nightmare for the past 24 years in circumstances where he is entirely innocent of the crime despite being convicted in his absence in France.”
Now it looks like it could be the end of the road for attempts to bring 63-year- old Bailey to stand trial in a French court.
He is a free man, one who is presumed innocent in this country, whatever about France.
His freedom is curtailed, most likely for the rest of his life.
He obviously can never travel to France.
Should he even find himself in any other EU country, on any country outside the union which has extradition treaties with France, he would be in danger of arrest.
The du Plantier family believe that he has got away with murder.
The evidence, however, simply does not support that belief.