Ian Bailey’s partner, Jules Thomas, claims she has suffered psychiatric illness and "incalculable" damage due to alleged actions by gardaí and the State concerning the investigation into the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
In the High Court, Mr Justice John Hedigan granted an application by the State for a preliminary hearing of issues which, if decided against Ms Thomas, may either shorten or completely halt her civil action for damages. Her action is brought on grounds including alleged wrongful arrest of her in connection with the murder, false imprisonment, conspiracy, and terrorising behaviour.
Having dealt with Mr Bailey’s separate case over 64 days earlier this year, Mr Justice Hedigan said anything that can be done to shorten or even fully strike out Ms Thomas’s case at an early stage should be done.
That was in everyone’s interests, including Ms Thomas, as the proceedings caused “enormous” trauma and strain on her and the defendants, he said.
The first preliminary issue is whether Ms Thomas’s case, initiated in 2007 and arising from her arrests in 1997 and 2000 in connection with Ms du Plantier’s murder, was brought outside the six-year legal time limit. The second issue is whether there was excessive delay in bringing it. A hearing date for the issueswill be fixed next month.
Luán O Braonáin, counsel for the defendants, argued there was a “deep irony” in Ms Thomas’s opposing trial of preliminary issues when lawyers for Mr Bailey had strongly criticised the State’s delay, until near the end of Mr Bailey’s case, in successfully seeking to have large aspects of his separate case halted. Mr Bailey’s remaining claims of conspiracy by some gardaí to frame him for murder were rejected by a High Court jury last March, leaving him facing a bill of up to €5m in legal costs.
Mr O Braonáin said it was “very unsatisfactory” for Ms Thomas to now claim, due to a psychiatric illness, a possibility of her being under a disability up to 2011 when it came to instructing lawyers. He said it was also incorrect for her side to infer malice or fraudulent concealment concerning information supplied by his side to her lawyers concerning the DPP’s advice against prosecuting her.
Michael Lynn, counsel for Ms Thomas, said that he would apply later to make additional claims concerning her psychological capacity to instruct lawyers before 2007 and to allege gardaí continued to engage in “surreptitious” intelligence gathering on her up to 2010, giving her a continuing cause of action of which she only became aware in recent years.
Mr Justice Hedigan asked counsel whether he would not expect gardaí to “keep an eye” on all suspects in the investigation of a murder which is still unsolved. Ms Thomas was arrested on suspicion of being an accomplice and there had to be “some recognition of realities”, he said.
Mr Lynn said that Ms Thomas’s case was entirely separate from Mr Bailey’s, that she was entitled to a separate hearing and, while it might be “uncomfortable” for the system to rerun issues, that is what justice requires.
In a report read in court, a psychiatrist who assessed Ms Thomas recently said he believed she has been affected by depressive illness from 1996 until at least 2011, which was likely to have caused an impediment in her mental state, affecting her ability to instruct lawyers. He said she had been subject to “massively stressful” circumstances.
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