Court allows Ian Bailey’s appeal against drug driving conviction nine days after his death from suspected heart attack

Chief suspect for murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier had filed an appeal before his death against drug driving and cannabis possession convictions

Ian Bailey had been convicted of drug driving and possession of cannabis for his own use by Judge John King at Skibbereen District Court on March 13th, but subsequently appealed the conviction. Photograph: Eric Luke

The chief suspect for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, former journalist Ian Bailey, has had his appeal against his drug driving conviction allowed just over a week after he died from a suspected heart attack in West Cork.

Mr Bailey (66) had been convicted of drug driving and possession of cannabis for his own use by Judge John King at Skibbereen District Court on March 13th, arising out of an incident when he was stopped by gardaí while driving near Schull on August 25th, 2019.

Judge King fined Mr Bailey a total of €700 and disqualified him from driving for 12 months but Mr Bailey appealed the convictions. The appeal had been adjourned to allow the State prepare submissions in response to arguments made by Mr Bailey’s barrister, Alan O’Dwyer BL.

When Cork Circuit Court registrar Gerardine O’Leary read out Tuesday’s appeals list and announced “DPP vs Ian Bailey”, there was a moment’s silence before Judge Helen Boyle said she would strike out the appeal, which would have left Mr Bailey with the drug driving conviction on his record.


Mr Bailey’s barrister, Mr O’Dwyer, asked for a moment to consult acting State Solicitor for West Cork, Jerry Healy, who had represented the State in the matter. After a brief discussion, Mr Healy addressed the court, and said, “in the circumstances, maybe the appeal should be allowed.”

Mr Bailey, who would have celebrated his 67th birthday last Saturday, died on January 21st when he collapsed from a suspected heart attack on the street near his flat at Barrack Street in Bantry. He had been living in the town for over a year since he split from his partner, Jules Thomas, in March 2021.

Mr Bailey, who is survived by sister Kay Reynolds who lives in London, was cremated two days later at the Island Crematorium on Rocky Island in Ringaskiddy, overlooking Cork Harbour, at an event attended only by the undertakers and crematorium staff.

The former journalist, who had taken to writing poetry in recent years, was twice arrested for questioning about the murder of French film producer, Sophie Toscan du Plantier (39), whose badly beaten body was found near her holiday home at Toormore on the morning of December 23rd, 1996.

Mr Bailey was released without charge on each occasion. Robert Sheehan, a solicitor in the DPP’s office, concluded in November 2001 that the evidence against him did not warrant a prosecution in a review of the Garda file that was highly critical of the police investigation.

Mr Bailey was later convicted in May 2019 in France following a trial in his absence and he was sentenced to 25 years in jail for the voluntary homicide of Ms Toscan du Plantier but the Irish courts refused to sanction his extradition to France and he never served the sentence.

*This article was corrected on Wednesday, January 31st, 2024. An earlier version incorrectly stated that Robert Sheehan concluded that the evidence against Ian Bailey warranted a prosecution.

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Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times