Ian Bailey will not be extradited to France to face trial for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier after a High Court judge threw out an attempt to have him surrendered to French authorities, describing the action as “an abuse of process”.
The rejection of the extradition bid was welcomed by Mr Bailey, who has always denied any involvement in the death of the French filmmaker, and by his solicitor, Frank Buttimer, but was met with dismay by members of the du Plantier family and their supporters.
In an RTÉ documentary screened last night, Ms du Plantier’s son, Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud, said: “I am confident that we will get the answer. I’m not sure if it will be tomorrow, in one month, in one year, in 10 years. But I must get the answer for my grandparents before they die.”
There were indications last night that French authorities may still proceed with a prosecution against Mr Bailey in absentia, but Mr Buttimer said: “It will, if it occurs, be nothing more than a show trial.”
In the High Court yesterday, Mr Justice Tony Hunt dismissed the extradition attempt — the second by French authorities — and said the matter had already been decided by the Supreme Court in 2012. He said he would also refuse the surrender of Mr Bailey because, in the unique circumstances of this case, it was an “abuse of process” for five distinct reasons, including the binding and conclusive decision of the Supreme Court on the extraterritoriality issue and the fact that five years had passed since that decision and it was now 21 years since the death of Ms du Plantier, who was killed at her holiday home near Schull in West Cork in December 1996.
“I do not know when or why Mr Bailey” moved from being a suspect to “a person required for prosecution”, the judge said.
Mr Justice Hunt said it appeared to him that the “theme underlying” the minister’s second extradition application was “a conviction that the majority of the Supreme Court were in error in deciding the previous application in the manner they did”.
Speaking outside the High Court afterwards, Mr Bailey said: “I tend not to have reactions to this long- ongoing ordeal.
“Obviously, I’m pleased and delighted with the judgment of the judge today and I thank Judge Hunt for that judgment. I would also thank my legal team who have been amazing.
“It’s not the end of it because the State will almost certainly appeal that decision today. It’s noticeable that the State, who took this case against me and have put me through a form of torture for 20 years on and off, were not even represented in court today. There was nobody there, which is astonishing.
“Later this week [tomorrow] we get a decision on whether I have a new civil appeal.
“I would think the State would almost certainly appeal this decision today so it’s not the end of the matter.”
When asked if he had a message to the French, Mr Bailey said: “I have always said I’m very sympathetic to the family and I know that they believe, for whatever reason, that I had something to do with the death of their daughter.
“And I’m very sympathetic, but I had nothing to do with it. I can’t say very much more than that.”
In the RTÉ documentary last night, Mr Bailey said he would “welcome” the opportunity to stand trial in this country regarding Ms du Plantier’s death, as it would clear his name.
Elsewhere, the association campaigning for justice in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder case described yesterday’s judgement as “negative news” and a “tragedy” for her parents.
Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, who are holidaying in Mauvezin, near Ambax in the Haute-Garonne region of south west France, close to where she is buried, were informed of the High Court’s decision yesterday morning.
“It is getting more and more difficult for them,” said Jean Pierre Gazeau, president of the Association for the Truth About the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (ASSOPH).
“Our French and Irish lawyers are working on behalf of Sophie’s family and of ASSOPH. They will review with great interest the judgment rendered by the High Court in Dublin.
“We are expecting a hearing before the Paris Court of Appeal on indictments due to take place just after summer.”
Mr Gazeau said ASSOPH has full confidence in the French judicial process, which he expects will result in a trial going ahead in Paris next year in the absence of Mr Bailey.
Regarding a possible Department of Justice appeal, a spokesman said the minister cannot comment on individual cases.
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