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New Minister faces Sophie case ‘Catch 22’

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Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Photo: PA

Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Photo: PA

Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Photo: PA

JUSTICE Minister Frances Fitzgerald faces a Catch 22’ conundrum over the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder probe.

Ms Fitzgerald is heading for her first major crisis at the helm of Justice. The Department could be sued if it continues to co-operate with the French authorities - but risks a legal and diplomatic row with Paris if it suspends mutual assistance.

Sophie’s uncle Jean Pierre Gazeau told The Herald he hopes the Irish authorities will sanction an elite four-strong Paris detective team to visit Ireland from today.

“Time is very important. We hope that they may be able to travel to Ireland from Monday.”

The detective unit has been waiting for permission from the Irish authorities to travel to Cork since earlier this year.

Critical

Their work is critical to allowing Paris-based magistrate Patrick Gachon to conclude his probe and make recommendations about a possible French prosecution.

The French probe into the 1996 killing of the 39-year-old in west Cork is now in its sixth year. No one was ever charged in relation to the murder.

Lawyers for British freelance journalist Ian Bailey (56) have warned they will seek a High Court injunction if the department gives permission for the Paris detectives to visit Ireland.

Mr Bailey was twice arrested by gardai, in 1997 and 1998. He was released without charge on both occasions and has consistently protested his innocence.

He has also claimed attempts were made to frame him for the crime and is now suing the State for wrongful arrest.

Mr Bailey’s solicitor Frank Buttimer wrote to the department on April 24 demanding an immediate commitment to suspend all mutual assistance with the French, given its potential to jeopardise ongoing legal actions in Ireland.

These include Mr Bailey’s lawsuit for alleged wrongful arrest, a complaint to GSOC over his treatment by west-Cork gardai and now the probe by Supreme Court Judge Nial Fennelly into the secret taping of calls at garda stations.

However, the French have signalled that they will consider taking legal action against Ireland if it attempts to limit mutual co-operation.

The Association for the Truth about the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier said any suspension of mutual assistance by Ireland would be “a scandal”.

Sophie’s parents cancelled a trip to Ireland this week.

hnews@herald.ie


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