Michael Clifford: Ian Bailey extradition hearing begins

Michael Clifford: Ian Bailey extradition hearing begins
Ian Bailey at the High Court in Dublin for his extradition hearing. Picture: Billy macGill

The latest chapter in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier case opened in Dublin today. 

Ms Du Plantier was killed in a brutal manner at her holiday home outside Schull, west Cork on December 23, 1996. The case is still en route to somewhere, for Ms Du Plantier’s family, and for the man who has been convicted in France of her murder, Ian Bailey.

The French prosecutor is applying for the extradition of Mr Bailey on foot of his conviction in Paris on May 31, 2019. Mr Bailey says he had nothing to do with the killing and that he has been the victim of a witch hunt for more than two decades. He did not attend his trial in Paris. His solicitor Frank Buttimer has described the process as a “show trial.” 

The DPP’s office in this country has repeatedly determined that Mr Bailey does not have a case to answer. If the 63-year-old is extradited, he will, in all likelihood, spend the rest of his days in prison.

The hearing on the European arrest warrant application got underway just after 11am. Ian Bailey sat at the back of Court 13 in the Courts of Criminal Justice building with a scarf around his neck. 

Social distancing ensured that attendance was sparse, a far cry from the packed Cork courthouse that heard Mr Bailey’s libel action against seven newspapers in 2002.

The state, through senior counsel Robert Barron, set out the details of the European arrest warrant and the law governing it. 

Then it was over to Mr Bailey’s counsel to give a good reason why he should not be extradited to a fellow EU member, a country with a long-established and stable criminal justice system.

The only problem is that the French do things differently to what we are accustomed to in this jurisdiction. 

Their pursuit of Bailey, for an alleged murder on Irish soil, is possible under a Napoleonic law that permitted the investigation of deaths of French citizens abroad. We have no reciprocal law in this country.

The trial at which Mr Bailey was convicted – and sentenced to 25 years in prison – differed greatly from what would pass muster in the Irish system. 

 Ian Bailey wearing a face mask on his way into the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin for the first day of his Extradition Case. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie
 Ian Bailey wearing a face mask on his way into the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin for the first day of his Extradition Case. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Yet now, the courts are being asked to extradite a man whom the Irish prosecutor says has no case to answer. Mr Bailey is an English subject who has been living in west Cork since 1991.

This is the third time the French have come calling. In 2012, the High Court ruled he be extradited, but the Supreme Court overturned that. In 2017, they tried again but didn’t get beyond the High Court which ruled the application was an abuse of process.

One of the grounds for the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision was that the law in question did not provide for the extradition of a person from a third country.

That law was amended last year, so the French believe the goalposts have changed on that front.

Another ground was that, in 2012, there was no specific trial scheduled for Mr Bailey. That also has changed as a trial went ahead in his absence last year at which he was convicted. 

The French say that he will receive a retrial if he is handed over, but it emerged today that such a trial would differ little from last year’s process in Paris.

Another legal point of contention arises under Section 44 of the European Arrest Warrant Act. This states that the crime that is at issue must have been committed in the country requesting the extradition. 

In other words, this law disputes whether Mr Bailey should be extradited to France for a crime committed in this country.

Mr Bailey’s side also maintains that he should be protected as a result of the Supreme Court result, irrespective of the other developments, including changes in law. 

Apart from that, his lawyer, Ronan Munroe, has submitted that his client was the victim of an abuse of process which, he said, must be taken into account.

Most of today's hearing was spent by Mr Munroe, citing law and precedent to reinforce his case that the extradition request should be refused.

The hearing resumes tomorrow morning.

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