Ian Bailey has been ordered to pay all of the legal costs, estimated at between €2 million and €5 million, of his failed civil action over the conduct of the Garda investigation into the late 1996 murder in west Cork of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
A stay on the costs order applies should Mr Bailey appeal the rejection of his case by a High Court jury last March.
Any appeal must be lodged within 28 days of the costs order being finalised and legal sources consider an appeal is likely.
In his costs ruling, Mr Justice John Hedigan dismissed as "unreal" Mr Bailey's argument the Garda Commissioner and State should pay about half of the costs because they only applied on day 60 of the 64 day case to have various claims, including wrongful arrest, not go before the jury on grounds they were brought outside the applciable six year legal time limit.
The "cental plank" of Mr Bailey's case, his claim that gardai conspired to frame him for murder by threatening or coercing Marie Farrell into making false statements, went to the jury and it was incorrect to say most of the case was withdrawn, the judge said.
While it was “unfortunate” the case took so long, the judge said he was satisfied it was necessary, not just in the interest of gardaí but the public interest, to have a full ventilation of the grave and very serious allegations made by Mr Bailey, and for gardaí to have a full opportunity to answer those.
Mr Bailey had wanted his case heard in open court and there would have been an “outcry” if it was closed down earlier on a “technicality”, the judge said. It was also clear gardaí came forward to vigorously deny the claims made against them and they were entitled to their day in court.
Because of the grave allegations made, the court had ordered the fullest disclosure of materials for the hearing, including discovery of recordings of phone conversations made to and from Bandon garda station, he added.
Even if the State made the application under the statute of limitations earlier, he would have been conscious this was a case that required to be fully heard such was the depth and breadth of the allegations made, the judge said. The public interest “deserved nothing less”.
There were no special circumstances requiring the court to depart from the normal rule that costs go to the winning side, the judge found. He made a full order for costs against Mr Bailey, including all reserved costs, costs of discovery and half the costs of a juror’s cancelled holiday, the State having previously agreed to pay the other half of those particular costs.
Mr Bailey was in court for the ruling.
His case opened last November and concluded after 64 days on March 30th when the jury dismissed his claim gardaí conspired to frame him for the murder of Ms du Plantier, whose body was found near her holiday home at Toormore, Schull, on December 23rd 1996.
On day 62, Mr Justice Hedigan granted the State’s application, made on days 60 and 62, to withdraw various other claims by Mr Bailey, including of wrongful arrest in 1997 and 1998, on grounds those were advanced outside the six year statutory limit for such claims.
Today, when costs issues came before the judge, Tom Creed SC, for Mr Bailey, argued that some 23 days of the hearing related to the matters that were ultimately determined by the jury. Had the statute point been made earlier, much time and costs could have been saved and Mr Bailey was entitled to some half of his costs against the State on that ground, counsel argued.
Luán O Braonáin SC, for the State, argued it was entitled to raise the statute point at any stage and Mr Bailey knew from the outset the point was pleaded in the defence.
It was in the public interest to publicly cross-examine witnesses about Mr Bailey’s serious and “wholesale” allegations against gardaí which included claims of assault and corruption as well as allegations of a sexual nature, counsel said.
The court had also left the “cornerstone” of Mr Bailey’s case to the jury, the claim Marie Farrell had been threatened, coerced or suborned to give false evidence against Mr Bailey, he argued.
A colour coded spreadsheet prepared by the State concerning the time spent by witnesses in dealing with various allegations showed the relevancy and necessity of those witnesses, he added.