Bailey loss over Garda conduct may cost taxpayers millions

Jury dismisses claim gardaí conspired to implicate Bailey in death of Toscan du Plantier

Ian Bailey leaving the High Court after losing his case against An Garda Síochána and the State. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Ian Bailey leaving the High Court after losing his case against An Garda Síochána and the State. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

A bill of at least €2 million and possibly as high as €5 million may ultimately end up with the taxpayer for the costs of Ian Bailey’s failed action for damages over the conduct of the Garda investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

The case which began on November 4th ran for 64 days in total.

A jury of seven men and four women yesterday unanimously dismissed claims by Mr Bailey that gardaí conspired to implicate him in the murder by getting key witness Marie Farrell via threats, intimidation or inducements to make statements they knew to be false.

The verdict came after about two hours’ deliberation at the close of the 64th day of hearing.

After thanking the jury Mr Justice John Hedigan spoke of “the shadow of the late Sophie Toscan du Plantier and her tragic senseless death in this case”, and expressed his sincere condolences to her family.

The judge also said he was referring a transcript of the evidence of Ms Farrell – a key witness for Mr Bailey – to the DPP for whatever action the director might “deem appropriate”.

Costs issues in the action will be decided later but if costs are awarded against Mr Bailey it seems unlikely he will have the resources to meet them.

State application

Mr Bailey’s side queried why that was not made earlier, saying it could, if granted then, have considerably shortened the case and reduced the costs for both sides.

The case was initiated in May 2007, and the judge upheld arguments by the State the six- year statutory time limit for such claims applied with the effect various claims relating to events before May 2001 could not be pursued, including Mr Bailey’s claims for wrongful arrest in 1997 and 1998.

Claims that the west Cork State Solicitor was asked by a senior garda in 1998 to get the minister for justice to get the DPP to charge Mr Bailey were also deemed statute barred.

When the judge queried why the State’s application to dismiss was made on day 60, counsel for the State said the point was pleaded from the outset, could have been raised by either side at any time, and gardaí were entitled to respond in public to very grave allegations against them. Aspects of Mr Bailey’s claim were not fully detailed and it was necessary to hear evidence on some issues, the judge was told.

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“He gave this case his very best effort, he thought and still does in fact think that he had sufficient evidence to sway the jury in his favour.”

Retired chief superintendent Dermot Dwyer – who was centrally involved in the investigation – welcomed the verdict but said he was not surprised as “common sense” would have always inclined him to believe that the jury would find no evidence of any conspiracy.

The family of Ms Toscan du Plantier expressed satisfaction with the verdict and said they hoped it would give new momentum to the investigation almost 20 years after the French woman died in west Cork.

The Fennelly commission into the Garda taping controversy is now preparing to distribute its draft report on the resignation of former commissioner Martin Callinan following the conclusion of Mr Bailey’s High Court action.

The publication of the report was delayed pending the outcome of the case but a spokeswoman last night said the “commission is preparing the draft report for distribution” to affected parties.

The commission is at the centre of intense political interest, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny saying he will not break the law by commenting on reports he was recalled to give evidence on the events leading to Mr Callinan’s resignation.