Papers unlikely to get €200,000 from broke Bailey

IAN BAILEY is facing a legal bill of €200,000 after he unsuccessfully sued eight newspapers for libel.

However, the newspapers may get little or nothing of that sum because Bailey is virtually penniless.

Following yesterday's ruling, The Mirror and The Sun must pay Bailey's lawyers almost €20,000. Bailey must pay five other newspapers about €200,000.

However, Bailey is what solicitors describe as "a man of straw". He owns no property and his only income comes from selling organic vegetables in Schull, Co Cork, each summer.

On the opening day of the trial, the court heard Bailey brought the cases in the hope of finding a method to convince 'ordinary people' that he was not a murderer and did not murder Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Ms du Plantier was battered to death near her home at Toormore in West Cork on December 23, 1996.

The Star, Sunday Independent, Independent on Sunday, Daily Telegraph and Times (including Sunday Times) newspapers may now seek to have Bailey declared bankrupt in the High Court. His future income would then be monitored and he would be forced to hand over a percentage of all earnings. However, the process is costly and legal experts believe the newspapers might be reluctant to do it. "It might be like throwing good money after bad. But if they really want to get him and make his life difficult they might do it," one legal source said.

Solicitor Richard Martin, of Ronan Daly Jermyn, was appointed as a receiver in an ex-parte application yesterday, which effectively freezes the €8,000 award for damages made to Bailey. That money will be claimed against the legal bill of approximately €200,000.

The newspapers sued by the Manchester-born journalist argued that he fabricated evidence in support of his libel action and in the public interest he should be awarded nothing.

Judge Moran said that five newspapers had successfully defended their actions but he was only prepared to award three-fifths of the costs. While he was told they had pooled resources in defending the actions, he said they could have done more to reduce costs.

Bailey's barrister, James Duggan, claimed Bailey was the victim of a trial by ambush in which members of An Garda Síochána colluded. The allegation that gardaí colluded with the newspapers in defending the libel action was one of the matters that Bailey's lawyers wanted Judge Moran to consider in deciding on costs.

Judge Moran said it was not an inquiry into the behaviour of the gardaí and that if Mr Duggan was going to make such serious allegations against the gardaí then he should do so at another forum.

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