Who will pay €5m Ian Bailey bill?
DEFEAT: Astronomical costs looming after journalist loses action against State for wrongful arrest over Sophie murder
Ian Bailey faces a massive legal bill of up to €5m after losing his High Court case for conspiracy against An Garda Siochana and the State.
Mr Bailey (57), from the Prairie, Schull, west Cork, claimed he was wrongfully arrested on suspicion of the murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier in 1996.
He sued the Garda Commissioner, Minister for Justice and the Attorney General for damages. The jury found that gardai had not conspired to obtain statements from the witness Marie Farrell to implicate former journalist Mr Bailey in the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier.
Mr Bailey now faces potentially astronomical costs for both legal teams, which he may never be able to pay.
In this event, the State’s costs would have to be picked up by the taxpayer.
The issue of costs has been adjourned to a later date. It is likely that the State will pursue Mr Bailey for costs as well as a bill for his own legal team. The court may also decide to rule no order as to costs, which could mean both sides bearing their own, but this is unlikely.
READ MORE: Sophie's murder is a 19-year mystery
Mr Bailey said yesterday that he is “reserving any thoughts and judgements” on the multi-million euro legal costs arising from his failed case against the State.
“I think it’s best I don’t say anything,” he told the Herald.
Mr Bailey, an author, poet and New Age gardener, has no known assets and no full-time employment in Ireland.
Outside the court, his solicitor, Frank Buttimer, addressed the media, saying his client will take time to “evaluate” his options.
“He is obviously very disappointed at the outcome – he gave this case his very best effort,” he said. “He thought, and still thinks, he had sufficient evidence to sway the jury in his favour. However, he has a deep and abiding respect for the Irish legal system.”
Mr Buttimer stressed Mr Bailey’s appreciation for the “attention” the jury gave the case.
“The result is disappointing. We will have to consider the result and our options,” Mr Buttimer said. “We should be allowed space and time to consider what might arise from here on in.” He also thanked the media for the privacy afforded to Mr Bailey.
Mr Justice John Hedigan thanked the jury, and said it was a source of “dismay and anguish” that Ms Toscan du Plantier’s killer had not been caught, but the garda investigation remained live.
Ms Toscan du Plantier’s battered body was found near her holiday home near Toormore, Schull, on December 23, 1996.
Judge Hedigan also offered his sincerest condolence to the family of Ms Toscan du Plantier.
The judge said he did not want anyone to think she had been forgotten.
“There has always been the shadow of Madame Sophie Toscan du Plantier and her tragic and senseless death in this case,” said Judge Hedigan.
“A beloved mother, wife and daughter, I do not want it thought that her life was forgotten here in this court.”
The trial took 64 days of hearing involving 93 witnesses.
Key witnesses included Mr Bailey himself, his partner Jules Thomas and shopkeeper Marie Farrell who claimed that, at the behest of gardai, she signed false statements, including one placing Mr Bailey not far from the scene of the murder.
At one point in the trial, Ms Farrell walked out of court after she refused to identify the man she was with when she made the sighting.
She later apologised after Mr Justice Hedigan told her that she faced being in contempt of court if she walked out again.
Ms Farrell also told the court that two gardai involved in the case, Maurice Walsh and Jim Fitzgerald, had made sexual advances towards her.
Both men told the court this never happened.
Speaking yesterday, Judge Hedigan said: “The credibility of witness Marie Farrell is central to that claim and the onus of proof is on Mr Bailey.
“The conspiracy alleged by Mr Bailey is proven if you find two or more gardai obtained false statements from Marie Farrell that identified Mr Bailey at Kealfadda Bridge near the scene of the murder or conspired to get Ms Farrell to make statements that Mr Bailey intimidated Ms Farrell at certain times.”
Sophie Toscan du Plantier
The defendants denied all of Mr Bailey’s claims. Mr Justice Hedigan said the jurors had to consider Mr Bailey’s claim that gardai set out to frame him for the murder. The second question the jury had to consider was if Det Garda Fitzgerald and Sgt Maurice Walsh conspired by threats, inducements or intimidation to get statements from Ms Farrell that Mr Bailey had intimidated her, when they knew they were false.
The jury took around two hours to deliberate and answered no to both questions.
Meanwhile, there have been fresh calls for co-operation between the Irish and French authorities – which had been suspended for the last year owing to the long running litigation – to be resumed.
The appeal was issued to Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald as the French insist there is now no legal reason for Ireland not to recommence full co-operation with Magistrate Patrick Gachon after the failure of Mr Bailey’s High Court action against the State.
Three years ago, the French sought to extradite Mr Bailey to Paris as part of the Gachon probe.
The Supreme Court rejected that extradition bid – and Ireland later suspended co-operation with the Gachon probe in light of the then-imminent High Court action.
The self-styled Association for the Truth about the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, a lobby group of Sophie’s friends, relatives and former colleagues, has previously warned that if Ireland continues to refuse to assist the French, a formal complaint could be made to EU agencies that co-ordinate inter-jurisdiction co-operation on judicial matters.
French courts are also empowered to deal with matters which happen outside their jurisdiction so long as they involve a French citizen.
However, the Supreme Court has ruled the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 prohibits extradition in circumstances where the alleged offence was committed outside French territory and Irish law does not allow prosecution for the same offence when committed outside its territory by a non-Irish citizen.
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- Ian Bailey profile: Journalist, poet, gardener and murder suspect - remarkable life of man who became pariah
- I'll never stop until I have justice for my mother, says Sophie's son