Journalist Ian Bailey’s action for damages against the State over alleged wrongful arrest in connection with the 1996 murder in West Cork of French filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier is expected to formally open before a High Court jury today.
Among other allegations being made by Mr Bailey is that gardaí conspired to manufacture evidence in producing witnesses to say Mr Bailey was at a place which he was not, his counsel Tom Creed told the jury panel earlier yesterday.
The jury sworn in to hear the action, expected to last six weeks, was sent away yesterday afternoon while legal discussions continued in their absence.
Mr Justice John Hedigan told the eight men and four women he and the lawyers were engaged in a legal discussion concerning the mechanics of the case. The judge told the jury he was sending them away until 11am today when Mr Creed is due to formally open the case.
Mr Bailey was in the packed court number three of the Four Courts, accompanied by his partner Jules Thomas, for yesterday’s proceedings.
When outlining the nature of the case to the jury panel earlier, Mr Creed said Mr Bailey is alleging he was wrongfully arrested in connection with the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier in December 1996.
The case essentially alleged that gardaí conspired to manufacture evidence in producing witnesses to say Mr Bailey was at a place which he was not, he said.
It would also be alleged gardaí told others in the community that Mr Bailey was guilty, as a consequence of which Mr Bailey’s life has been “a misery for the past 18 years”, counsel said.
It was also alleged gardaí had engaged in unlawful and oppressive conduct and that Mr Bailey had suffered assault and emotional and psychological damage intentionally inflicted by gardaí, Mr Creed said.
Before sending the jury away, Mr Justice Hedigan outlined how the case will run and that the jury’s role was to decide the facts by applying their life experience and common sense.
“You are the experts on the facts,” he told them.
Because this is a civil and not a criminal case, the legal standard of proof is the balance of probabilities and not reasonable doubt, meaning Mr Bailey must prove his claim on the basis of balance of probabilities, he said.
The judge asked the jury not to discuss any issues concerning the case with any other person except a fellow juror. They must also not research any issue connected with the case on the internet or read media reports about it, he said.
The jury was required to decide this case only on the evidence put before them, he stressed. He also urged them not to rush to judgment and to take their time.
Mr Bailey, aged 57, a native of Manchester with an address at The Prairie, Schull, West Cork, has brought his action against the Garda commissioner and various State parties.
The case, the court heard, had been listed for three weeks but could run for up to six weeks. Mr Bailey is represented by two senior counsel, Mr Creed and Martin Giblin, and two junior counsel, while the State is also represented by two senior counsel, Paul O’Higgins and Luán Ó Braonáin, and two junior counsel.
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