Tuesday 25 October 2016

Ian Bailey must pay legal costs of up to €5m in failed civil action

Ian Bailey
Ian Bailey

Journalist Ian Bailey has been ordered to pay all of the legal costs, estimated at between €2m and €5m, of his failed civil action over the conduct of the Garda investigation into the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork.

Mr Justice John Hedigan said it was unfortunate the case took so long - 64 days - but he was satisfied it was necessary to have a full ventilation of the very serious allegations made by Mr Bailey against gardai and for the gardai to have a full opportunity in public to refute those. That was in the public interest as well as the gardai, he added.

It was also incorrect to suggest most of the claims were withdrawn from the jury as the core of the case - the claim that the gardai conspired to frame Mr Bailey for murder - went to the jury, he said.

He agreed to put a stay on his costs order in the event of an appeal.

Mr Bailey was in court for today's costs ruling. It is understood he continues to actively consider an appeal against the jury verdict in his case. He has 28 days to lodge an appeal after today's costs order has been formally perfected.

Last March, after a 64 day hearing, a High Court jury dismissed Mr Bailey's claim that gardai conspired to frame him for the murder of Ms du Plantier whose body was found near her holiday home at Toormore, Schull, on December 23rd 1996.

Mr Bailey's case was against the Garda Commissioner and State, who today sought their entire costs of the action against him while his lawyers argued he was entitled to about half of the costs against the defence because they had delayed to day 60 of the case before successfully applying to have many of his claims not go before the jury on grounds they were brought outside the legal time limits.

The State argued it was entitled to raise that statute of limitations point at any stage and Mr Bailey knew from the outset it was pleaded in the defence.

They also argued it was in the public interest to publicly cross-examine witnesses about Mr Bailey's serious and "wholesale" allegations against gardai, which included claims of assault and corruption as well as allegations of a sexual nature.

The court had left the “cornerstone” of Mr Bailey’s case to the jury which was the claim Marie Farrell had been threatened or coerced or suborned to give false evidence against Mr Bailey, the State argued.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Hedigan said the primary argument by Mr Bailey is that he was entitled to about 33 days costs due to the lateness of the statute application by the defence.

The defence argued they had pleaded that point, Mr Bailey was aware of it and had sought particulars of it at an early stage.

They also argued they had to deal with a vast range of serious allegations against gardai who had to be given opportunity to deny them in public court both in their own and the public interest.

The existing case law was that there had to be special reasons for a court to depart from the normal rule that costs go to the winning party, the judge said. That discretion had to be exercised in the circumstances of each case.

The core argument by Mr Bailey was that 33 days of evidence would not be necessary had the statute point been made earlier, the judge said. That argument was "unreal".

The allegations against gardai were so grave he believed they must be publicly ventilated and had previously ruled there must be the fullest discovery of documents and that was why tape recordings form Bandon garda station had to be discovered.

Mr Bailey also wanted his case heard in open court and there would have been an outcry had the case been closed down on a technicality, the judge added.

It was also clear gardai came forward to vigorously deny the claims against them and they were all entitled to their day in court.

The judge added, even had the statute point been made earlier, he believed the case had to be heard fully and the public interest deserved nothing less.  It was also incorrect to say most of Mr Bailey's cased was withdrawn from the jury.

The central plank of the case went to the jury, the claim that gardai conspired to frame Mr Bailey for murder by threatening or coercing Marie Farrell into making false statements.

It was unfortunate the case took so long but the depth of case required it, he said.

There would thus be a full order for costs against Mr Bailey, including all reserved costs, costs of discovery and half the costs of a juror's cancelled holiday with the State paying the other half of those particular costs.

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