French court finds Ian Bailey guilty of murdering Sophie Toscan du Plantier

English journalist sentenced to 25 years in absentia, arrest warrant to be issued

Ian Bailey has been accused of cowardice for failing to appear before a French court. Photograph: Getty

Ian Bailey has been accused of cowardice for failing to appear before a French court. Photograph: Getty

 

English journalist, Ian Bailey has been found guilty by a court in Paris of the murder of French film producer, Sophie Toscan du Plantier almost a quarter of a century after her badly beaten body was found near holiday home in West Cork.

A new arrest warrant will be issued following the verdict.

Mr Bailey (62) from the Prairie Liscaha, Schull, Co Cork was convicted in his absence by the three judges of the Cour d’Assises of Paris of the voluntary homicide of mother of one, Ms Toscan du Plantier (39) at her holiday home in Toormore on December 23rd, 1996. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Judge Frederique Aline delivered the verdict at the end of a 35-minute judgment. She and her colleagues, Judge Didier Forton and Judge Geraldine Detienne took five hours to convicted Mr Bailey of the offence following three days of evidence and legal submissions at the Cour d’Assises sitting in the historic Palais de Justice in the centre of Paris.

Speaking from Cork after the verdict, Mr Bailey’s solicitor, Frank Buttimer said he believed the decision by the Cour de’Assises was a “grotesque miscarriage of justice”.

“It was a predictable outcome from the start and anybody who believes this is any form of criminal trial in the way that we would understand is completely mistaken,” he said.

“This was no more than a rubber stamping exercise to validate the pre-determined belief of those in authority in France that Ian Bailey is guilty.

“It is disgraceful that our independent democracy has allowed this to happen by facilitiating the advancement of a so-called trial process in France by co-operating with the request from France for assistance – the whole episode is a grotesque miscarriage of justice.”

Mr Buttimer acknowledged Mr Bailey could go to France to contest the case again de novo but said they were more likely to examine European law as to whether they can challenge the ruling. He said there was no appeal avenue open to Mr Bailey within the French system given he had opted not attend the trial.

Judges have spent three days listening to evidence in relation to the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork in 1996.
Judges have spent three days listening to evidence in relation to the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork in 1996.

Mr Buttimer said he fully expected the French authorities to seek Mr Bailey’s extradition to France as it had done on two previous occasions. He said they would fully fight in the Irish courts any such attempts to have Mr Bailey surrendered to France.

“I think what we have right now is a position of sanctuary for Ian Bailey here in Ireland, at least as far as the courts are concerned, whatever about the Department of Justice and I think the next challenge to maintain Ian Bailey’s liberty will be in the Irish courts system.”

There were emotional scenes in the dark wood paneled courtroom when Judge Aline read out the verdict before a packed courtroom which included Ms Toscan du Plantier’s only son, Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud (38) and her father, Georges.

Ms Toscan do Plantier’s two brothers, Bertrand and Stephane as well as her aunt, Marie Madeleine Opalka and her uncles, Jean Pierre and Michel Gazeau, who campaigned for Mr Bailey to be tried in France ,all embraced each other as the verdict was read out.

Mr Bailey had earlier said he would not be commenting on the outcome. He was twice arrested and questioned by gardaí about the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier but was never charged in relation to her death and a solicitor in the DPP’s office recommended no prosecution in 2001 saying there was insufficient evidence to merit a charge.

Mr Bailey, who was born in Manchester and moved to West Cork in the early 1990s, has repeatedly denied any involvement in the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier and has denied that he ever made any admissions that he killed as has been stated in the French trial and other court hearings in Ireland.