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Sunday 19 January 2020

'I feel I'm being sacrificed to the French', says Bailey

  • Sophie murder suspect arrested as High Court endorses extradition warrant

Ian Bailey was convicted in Paris last May for the killing of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork
Ian Bailey was convicted in Paris last May for the killing of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork
Sophie Toscan du Plantier
Du Plantier murder scene in West Cork

Ian Bailey has vowed to fight "tooth and nail" against extradition to France after he was arrested in Dublin on foot of a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by the French authorities for the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

The High Court endorsed the third EAW issued in nine years by the French authorities for the Manchester-born freelance journalist and poet (62) in connection with the death of Ms du Plantier (39) in west Cork.

It represents the first phase in what is expected to be a historic legal battle over the extradition of Mr Bailey, who was convicted in absentia in France of a crime that happened in Ireland almost 23 years ago.

Isolated

The matter is expected to be referred by the High Court to the Supreme Court.

Mr Bailey has consistently protested his innocence in relation to the murder of the mother-of-one at her isolated holiday home at Toormore, outside Schull, west Cork, on December 23, 1996.

The film executive was found on a laneway leading to her holiday home after being beaten to death by an attacker who had apparently chased her from her house.

She had been due to fly back to France later that day.

Mr Bailey has always maintained his innocence and claimed a sinister campaign had been waged to "stitch me up" for the crime.

Last night, Mr Bailey told the Herald: "I feel very aggrieved because it seems like I am being sacrificed to the French.

"I am an innocent man and there are people in this country who know full well that I had absolutely nothing to do with this crime and yet they are prepared to stay silent. It is quite shocking.

"They are determined to pursue an innocent man - this is a tragedy for the truth."

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had ruled out any action against Mr Bailey in Ireland after he was twice arrested by gardai, in 1997 and 1998, being released without charge on both occasions.

However, he was convicted in absentia before a Paris criminal court last May after being tried following a 10-year French investigation.

The three-judge Paris court sentenced him to 25 years in prison after convicting him of the killing.

Mr Bailey warned last May that he was "expecting the knock on the door at any time" from gardai as part of a renewed French effort to have him extradited.

Mr Bailey's solicitor Frank Buttimer rejected the French proceedings as "a show trial" and "a farce".

The Supreme Court rejected an extradition bid by the French for Mr Bailey in 2012 - and the High Court threw out a second extradition bid in 2017 as an abuse of process.

Yesterday, a High Court judge endorsed the third Paris warrant seeking the arrest of Mr Bailey and his extradition to France for the murder.

Mr Justice Donald Binchy endorsed the warrant. Extradition proceedings could not begin until the High Court endorsed the French warrant.

Following the endorsement, Mr Bailey was arrested outside a courtroom at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin. He had travelled to Dublin by arrangement.

Mr Bailey was then brought before the High Court, where Detective Sergeant Jim Kirwan, of the garda Extradition Unit, gave evidence of his arrest.

Mr Bailey was then remanded on bail to appear before the court again on January 20, 2020, for a full hearing in respect of the warrant.

Det Sgt Kirwan said he explained to Mr Bailey that the warrant was on foot of his conviction in absentia in France.

When he asked Mr Bailey if he knew what the arrest was about, Mr Bailey replied: "Yes I do. I just want to say I had nothing to do with this crime."

Det Sgt Kirwan agreed with Ronan Munro SC, for Mr Bailey, that Mr Bailey lives "very visibly in Cork" and is "easy to keep an eye on".

Mr Munro added that endorsing the warrant for Mr Bailey would simply expose the former journalist to another abuse of process.

Changes

He noted the judgment of Judge Tony Hunt in the High Court in July 2017 when the second French extradition request in respect of Mr Bailey was dismissed as an "abuse of process".

Lawyers for the State said the law had changed since that decision in 2017 and argued that, in the interim period, Mr Bailey had also been convicted of murder at a trial in France in his absence.

Mr Justice Binchy said he was "satisfied to endorse the warrant" following two significant "changes", namely a change in the law and Mr Bailey's conviction.

Any extradition proceedings are expected to be complicated by the fact Mr Bailey is taking a case to the European Court of Justice over the French case taken against him.

Mr Bailey, of The Prairie, Liscaha, Schull, Co Cork, warned that the French actions against him had left him effectively a prisoner in Ireland.

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