Bailey charges: French court could call up to 30 Irish citizens

Rules of evidence in France allow for statements from deceased witnesses

Up to 30 Irish citizens could face calls from the French authorities to go to Paris to give evidence if the trial of Ian Bailey on a charge of murdering Sophie Toscan du Plantier goes ahead.

Critically however, the French authorities have no power to compel any Irish witnesses to attend in France and would depend on them travelling voluntarily to confirm statements made to French investigators. The trial is not likely to take place before next spring at the earliest.

What is notably different in France from trials in Ireland are the rules of evidence, with statements of deceased witnesses admissible in evidence.

Also admissible is a statement by a friend of Ms Toscan du Plantier, Guy Girard, that she told him she knew Mr Bailey. Under Irish law this would be hearsay and thus inadmissible, but it contradicts Mr Bailey's statement that he did not know Ms Toscan du Plantier.

If the French authorities proceed with the trial of Mr Bailey next year, as seems likely after French magistrate Nathelie Turquey delivered an indictment order against him for homicide, it will be but the latest twist in the extraordinary affair.

Almost 20 years have elapsed since 39-year-old mother-of-one Sophie Toscan du Plantier was found lying in her bloodstained night clothes after being bludgeoned to death outside her isolated holiday home at Drinane, Toormore, near Schull two days before Christmas 1996.


The investigation which led to the arrest of English journalist Ian Bailey in February 1997 and again in January 1998 was dogged with controversy.

Forensic work was questioned, and there were allegations of Garda misbehaviour and coercion of witnesses.

Mr Bailey lost a High Court action last year – which he currently is appealing – after a jury found gardaí did not conspire to induce or coerce a witness, Marie Farrell, into making false statements implicating him in the murder.

But as a result of the High Court case and earlier libel actions by Mr Bailey, the public has heard from many of the witnesses who made statements to gardaí.

Mr Bailey has described the French investigation, which formed the basis for the last European arrest warrant issued against him in 2010, as based on “a tissue of lies”.

His lawyer, Frank Buttimer, has similarly described the Garda investigation as discredited and "flawed".


Yet much of the French case is based on many of the statements made to gardaí with French investigators coming to Ireland in October 2011 and again in 2015 .

It is unclear at this stage whether the French authorities have made contact with these witnesses since Judge Turquey made her indictment order against Mr Bailey. But it is clear from both Mr Bailey’s libel actions and his case against the State that certain witnesses will be central.

Chief among these will be Malachai Reed who testified at the libel trial that Mr Bailey admitted to him in February 1997 that work “had been going fine until I went up there with a rock and bashed her f...king brains in” which Mr Reed took to be a confession.

Richie Shelley testified both at the libel trial and the case against the State that Mr Bailey broke down crying at his house on New Year's Eve in 1998 and said "I went too far, I went too far" which Mr Shelley also interpreted as a confession as Mr Bailey had been talking about the murder.

Mr Bailey denied making admissions and insisted what he said was that “people are saying” that he bashed Ms Toscan du Plantier with a rock and that he went too far on the night in question.

The critical question is whether Mr Bailey himself will be in attendance in Paris if the trial goes ahead. That will depend on the outcome of extradition proceedings.

One thing does appear certain, however, even without the central character, this case will proceed to trial.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times