Bailey legal costs: Up to €5m may go unpaid

Ian Bailey is to continue his fight to prove there was a campaign to frame him for murder, despite being hit with a multi-million euro legal bill for his failed High Court case against the State.

The former journalist was yesterday ordered to pay all the legal costs associated with the 64-day hearing which ended in March, with a jury verdict that he was not the victim of a Garda conspiracy to set him up for the still unsolved murder of French film-maker Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Costs are estimated to run to as much as €5m. There is no likelihood that Mr Bailey — who is unemployed and says his ability to earn a living was ruined after he was arrested in connection with the murder — will be able to pay them.

However, that issue will not come to a head for some time as Judge John Hedigan put a stay on the costs order to allow for the possibility of an appeal against the March verdict. Appeal papers are expected to be lodged in the next few weeks.

Mr Bailey, 57, of the Prairie, Schull, West Cork, was in court to hear Judge Hedigan’s order but declined to comment afterwards, saying he could not talk about the proceedings at this time.

His solicitor, Frank Buttimer, would not discuss his client’s next step either.

“I am not in a position to say anything while matters are not concluded,” he said.

However, it is understood that Mr Bailey is determined to press on with his case and believes an appeal court would view his claims differently.

Given the scale of the costs already awarded against him, an appeal would not add significantly to the bill as it would be confined to legal arguments and would likely last only a few days.

Mr Bailey’s original claim was that he was twice wrongfully arrested for the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier, who was found beaten to death outside her holiday home at Toormore, Schull, in December 1996.

He also claimed gardaí tried to influence the statements of a key witness to implicate him, that his life and reputation had been destroyed as a result and that he was entitled to substantial damages.

After objections from the State, Judge John Hedigan dismissed the complaints of wrongful arrest because they fell outside the six-year time limit for lodging claims and also said damage to reputation could only be addressed in a separate defamation claim. The jury rejected the remaining claim.

During the costs hearing, Mr Bailey argued that the State had unnecessarily prolonged the trial by only raising the objections on the 60th day of the proceedings and that he could not therefore be held responsible for all the costs.

Judge Hedigan said it was unfortunate the case took so long but he was satisfied it was necessary to have a full ventilation of the very serious allegations made by Mr Bailey against gardaí and for the gardaí to have a full opportunity in public to refute those. That was in the public interest as well as the gardaí, he added.

The State is currently trying to have separate wrongful arrest proceedings by Mr Bailey’s partner, Jules Thomas, dismissed on the same grounds that her claim also falls outside the normal six-year time limit.

Her case for damages, arising from her arrests in 1997 and 2000, came before the High Court on Monday but was adjourned for six weeks. Mr Buttimer, who also represents Ms Thomas, said her case was unaffected by the costs ruling against Mr Bailey.

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