By Noel Baker
Ian Bailey has said he will now go to the European Court of Human Rights after the French Supreme Court threw out his legal challenge to efforts by French authorities to try him for the voluntary homicide of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
The decision by the five-judge panel at the Cour de Cassation had been expected on May 7 but Mr Bailey said his French lawyer, Dominique Tricaud, had contacted him to say his legal challenge had been turned down.
Mr Bailey (pictured below) also said that if a trial were to proceed in France, where authorities want to try him in connection with the December 1996 death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, he would consider the possibility “in principle” of providing evidence via video link, although he added he would need to discuss the idea with his legal team.
Earlier this year Mr Tricaud had lodged the appeal against the refusal of the French Court of Appeal, the Chambre d’Instruction, to strike out a charge of voluntary homicide against Mr Bailey over Ms Toscan du Plantier’s death.
Mr Tricaud had told the Irish Examiner he was “not pessimistic” about the appeal and added: “The grounds for the appeal are very strong.”
However, it now appears that the appeal has been unsuccessful - opening the way for a trial against Mr Bailey to proceed in his absence.
Mr Bailey told the Irish Examiner: “My French lawyer, Mr Dominique Tricaud, today informed me that my challenge to the decision to try me for voluntary homicide in France has failed before the French Supreme Court.
“I am less surprised, though clearly disappointed, that the prosecution file repeatedly rejected in Ireland could have made muster in France.”
He said he was also angry that he had not been informed of his right at an earlier stage to participate in the French investigation.
“Where do I go from here? My French lawyer will in due course take the challenge to the false allegations that I am somehow, unexplainedly, responsible for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier to the European Court of Human Rights.”
He added that even if a trial against him proceeded in France and it resulted in a conviction, “all they will have done is to convict an innocent man”.
Mr Bailey has consistently denied having any involvement in Ms du Plantier’s death. The body of the French filmmaker was found near her holiday home near Schull in West Cork on December 23, 1996.
Mr Tricaud said he did not believe bringing an application to the European Court of Human Rights would necessarily stop any trial against Mr Bailey from taking place in France.
However, he said in his view it could be two to three years before any such trial got underway.
Ms du Plantier’s family has supported concerted efforts to have Mr Bailey brought to France to face trial and have said they believe a trial in Mr Bailey’s absence could get underway before the end of this year.
Mr Bailey and his solicitor, Frank Buttimer, have consistently criticised the efforts by French authorities to prosecute the Schull-based journalist and the legal grounds for doing so.
However, Mr Bailey suggested that were a trial to go ahead, he would consider giving evidence via video link, although conceded he would have to discuss the “hypothetical” situation with his legal representatives.
“If it was to come to the point that I was to be tried I would talk to my lawyer as to whether [I should] - in principle, if the advice was that I could or should,” he said.
Separately, it is understood that Mr Bailey might bring an appeal to the Irish Supreme Court in relation to a recent Court of Appeal decision.
In March the Court of Appeal overturned its decision permitting a retrial of part of Mr Bailey’s civil action for damages over the conduct of the Garda investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
It is understood the written judgement may soon become available, which may trigger an appeal to the Supreme Court.