Republic of Ireland news

Dublin court refuses to extradite ex-journalist Ian Bailey to France over unsolved murder

Sophie Toscan du Plantier's badly beaten body was found on an isolated hillside in Toormore near Schull, west Cork two days before Christmas in 1996
Ed Carty

A COURT in Dublin has refused to extradite a former journalist to France over the unsolved murder of a film producer in Ireland more than 20 years ago.

Ian Bailey was wanted by authorities in Paris as part of their investigations over the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Her badly beaten body was found on an isolated hillside in Toormore, near Schull, west Cork, two days before Christmas in 1996.

Under French law, investigators can look into the death of one of their citizens overseas and seek a prosecution.

It is the second failed attempt to have Mr Bailey extradited.

The first was refused by the Supreme Court in Dublin in 2012.

Originally from England but living in west Cork since the mid 1990s, Mr Bailey was twice arrested in Ireland in connection with the murder.

He was never charged and has vehemently denied any involvement.

Judge Tony Hunt refused the extradition application, which was sought after a European Arrest Warrant was issued last year.

"The surrender of the respondent is refused," the judge said.

Judge Hunt also described the application as "abuse of process".

"The surrender of the respondent is refused on the basis that the minister is stopped from obtaining such a warrant by the judgment of the Supreme Court in the previous proceedings," the judge said.

"It is also refused because, in the unique circumstances of this case, further proceedings seeking surrender on the fresh warrant constitute an abuse of process.

"Lastly, surrender is precluded because of the general precedential effect of a final and conclusive Supreme Court decision on the High Court in deciding a subsequent case involving identical facts whether or not the parties to the case are identical."

Mr Bailey left court saying he was pleased and delighted.

"I tend not to have reactions to this long-ongoing ordeal," he said.

"It's not the end of it – The state will almost certainly appeal.

"In the meantime, life goes on."

Mr Bailey also expressed sympathy with the family of Ms Toscan du Plantier.

"I know they believe, for whatever reasons, that I had something to do with the death of their daughter and I'm very sympathetic. But I had nothing to do with it," he said.

"I'm sympathetic to them. I can't really say much more than that.

"It would be good from my point of view if a new piece of evidence came to light or somebody admitted the truth, but I don't suppose that's going to happen."

Mr Bailey, aged 60 and living at The Prairie, Liscaha, Schull, west Cork, has not worked as a journalist for many years.

He is currently trying to sell a collection of poems he has compiled.

He said he has no indication how the French authorities will proceed.

When the extradition application was made, the Association for the Truth about the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (Assoph) – founded by the dead woman's family to campaign over her murder, was told that Mr Bailey was wanted on a charge of alleged voluntary homicide.

The penalty for the offence is up to 30 years in jail.

It is understood he could be put on trial in his absence.

His solicitor Frank Buttimer has branded the prospect of a prosecution in Paris a "show trial".

Mr Bailey lost a marathon lawsuit against the Irish state over the handling of the Ms Toscan du Plantier murder investigation and a claim that detectives had tried to frame him.

A decision on an appeal in that case is expected on Wednesday.

Ms Toscan du Plantier was married to the late Daniel Toscan du Plantier, a major player in French cinema who had close contacts with the upper echelons of government in Paris.

Even though Irish courts upheld his original fight against extradition, Mr Bailey was unable to attend his mother Brenda's funeral in England in 2010 after she died aged 87.

He feared he would be arrested under a European Arrest Warrant if he travelled.

Mr Bailey, who moved to Ireland from Cheltenham, admitted during the failed lawsuit to beating his partner Jules Thomas three times.

The fallout from the case was not limited to the exposure of Mr Bailey's domestic violence, cannabis use and heavy drinking or assessments by Ireland's senior law officers that gardaí botched the initial investigation.

As part of disclosures in the lawsuit, it emerged that phone calls at garda stations countrywide were recorded for years without the public's knowledge.

The courtroom defeat in his bid for damages was the second Mr Bailey suffered after he lost libel actions in 2003 against several newspapers over their reporting of the murder investigation and naming him as a suspect.

Jean Antoine Bloc, spokesman with the Assoph group, said the family had expected that the judge would refuse the extradition.

"We have been waiting for 20 years for justice and we are no longer expecting anything more from Ireland," he said.

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