- 31 May 19
No one had any doubt what the verdict of the French courts would be, and many Irish legal observers see the result as a miscarriage of justice. But it is still a bad day for Ian Bailey, which will see his freedom of movement even more definitively curtailed.
The French trial of the journalist and writer Ian Bailey for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier ended in the predicted result today, with a guilty verdict. In advance of the court proceedings, Ian Bailey’s legal representative, Frank Buttimer, had dismissed the event as a show trial, insisting that it has no validity. That view has been supported by many in the Irish legal profession, highlighting stark differences between the workings of the French justice system, and the Irish.
Sophie Toscan du Plantier was murdered near her home in Schull, Co. Cork, and her body was found on the morning of Monday, 22 December 1996, about 200 yards from her house. She died from multiple head injuries.
Despite the fact that the Gardaí decided very early on to treat Ian Bailey as the prime suspect, they have never been able to find a solid basis for bringing charges to court, with the DPP deciding that there was insufficient evidence. This was not for want of trying on the part of the Irish police. Indeed, they were sufficiently determined to pin charges on Ian Bailey that witnesses were put under pressure in different ways and arguably suborned. Leads which might have taken the investigation in a different direction were not followed up. And in general, to say that the performance of the Gardaí left a lot to be desired is to put it mildly.
It is true that much unpleasantness was uncovered during the course of the investigation. A statement from Ginny Thomas, the daughter of Ian Bailey’s girlfriend Jules Thomas, was used in court by the French authorities during the course of this week's trial. It included details of physical beatings given to Jules Thomas by Ian Bailey, and also contained an accusation that Ian Bailey had told the then-18 year-old that he wanted to ‘get off’ with her. Ian Bailey has admitted to a feeling of “eternal shame” at what were undoubtedly horrendous acts of violence against Jules Thomas, with alcohol playing a significant part.
During the course of the French trial, a report written by a psychiatrist Jean Michel Masson and a psychologist Katy Lorenzo-Regreny claimed that Ian Bailey had a borderline personality, based on “narcissism, psycho-rigidity, violence, impulsiveness, egocentricity, with an intolerance to frustration and a great need for recognition.” However, in the long run, his relationship with Jules Thomas has survived and she consistently refused to give evidence against him.
The way in which Ian Bailey was treated by the Irish authorities remains a hugely contentious issue. Bailey took an action against the State for wrongful arrest and conspiracy, but he lost the case – mostly on a technicality, in that the presiding Justice, John Hedigan, ruled that the action had not been taken within the six-year time limit specified by law. On that basis, he decided that the claims were statute barred.
Justice Hedigan also decided that the claim for wrongful arrest would not have succeeded, on the basis that it appeared from the evidence that the investigating Gardaí had reason to suspect Ian Bailey, and would therefore have been derelict in their duty if they had not arrested him.
Ian Bailey's claim for conspiracy was allowed to proceed by the court. But – some observers felt bizarrely – the jury found against the claim that certain Gardaí had conspired to obtain statements from the witness Marie Farrell to implicate him in the murder.
All of that notwithstanding, on two occasions the Irish courts decided that there was no basis for agreeing to the extradition of Ian Bailey, to be tried in France. However, the French authorities decided to try him in abstentia. Ian Bailey himself forecast in an interview in Hot Press that he would be found guilty by the French courts, which do not require anything like the same level of proof as an Irish court.
Despite the decision of the French courts, in Ireland the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier remains in the unsolved category. Unless something new and extraordinary occurs, it is likely to stay that way.