French will convict Ian Bailey of murder, says lawyer

Journalist could receive 30-year prison sentence in absentia for voluntary homicide

Ian Bailey will be convicted of the voluntary homicide of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and sentenced to 30 years in prison, his lawyer in France, Dominique Tricaud, has predicted.

In July, Judge Nathalie Turquey issued a European arrest warrant for Bailey in connection with the killing of Toscan du Plantier in west Cork during the night of December 22nd-23rd, 1996.

Turquey’s predecessor, Judge Patrick Gachon, made a failed attempt to extradite Bailey in 2011.

This second European arrest warrant was based on Turquey’s completion of the investigation and the drafting of an ordonnance de renvoi.

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Tricaud said Bailey could appeal against this order only if the document were sent to him, which is doubtful.

“He has not received it; that is certain,” Tricaud said. “In my opinion he will not receive it. In France, one must be mis en examen – formally placed under investigation – to have access to the file. He was never mis en examen.”

Credibility

Tricaud is seeking to undermine the credibility of the trial by boycotting it.

“Things will take place which do not concern my client. Mr Bailey will not be extradited. The French magistrates will condemn him to 30 years in prison in absentia,” the lawyer said.

Article 221 of the French penal code prescribes a maximum 30 years imprisonment for voluntary homicide. An accused who does not present himself for trial often receives the maximum sentence.

Not being a party to the proceedings “opens rights” for his client, who may later seek the nullification of proceedings, Tricaud said.

“Bailey isn’t hiding. He has been questioned repeatedly by the Irish police. Yet he enjoys none of the rights of the accused,” Tricaud said.

“It is better for him this way . . . Someone who is informed loses his rights. The court can say, ‘He should have come to defend himself’.”

“Disservice”

Tricaud confirmed meanwhile that he did not intend to defend Bailey at the trial, saying: “Since Mr Bailey will not attend this trial, it would be a disservice to him to represent him in his absence.”

Alain Spilliaert, the lawyer for Toscan du Plantier's family, said: "If Bailey is represented, there will be a real trial, with cross-examination of witnesses.

“If not, it will be very short – only the pleas of the civil plaintiffs’ lawyers and the prosecutor – and Bailey’s defenders will claim it was a farce staged to please the family.”

Bailey told this newspaper last month that he was asking Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions Claire Loftus for a trial in Ireland "so that I can clear my name once and for all in relation to this murder which I had absolutely nothing at all to do with".

“The civil plaintiffs would accept a trial in Ireland,” Spilliaert said. “We want the truth and to obtain justice. French justice only got involved because Ireland did not want to hold a trial.

“I am convinced that if Ms Loftus studied Judge Turquey’s order, she would see that it is based on solid grounds . . . explain himself before the judges.”

Decision overturned

The Irish Supreme Court in 2012 overturned an earlier High Court decision to extradite Bailey to France for two reasons.

First, France had not then made clear its intention to try him. Second, under Irish law, only an Irish citizen could be extradited in the circumstances. Bailey is British.

“His British nationality saved him,” Spilliaert said.

Both lawyers expect Ireland to turn down the extradition request, but they differ on the date of the trial.

“It takes between one and two years to bring an accused to trial before the assizes court when the accused is in detention,” Tricaud said.

“There is no urgency in Mr Bailey’s case, because no one is detained . . . I have no idea, but I expect it to take two to three years.”

Spilliaert believes the trial will be held next year.

“Nearly 20 years have passed since the family filed their civil suit,” he said. “Judge Turquey wants to move quickly for the sake of the family, to resolve the case while the victim’s parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, are still alive.”

“One-sided”

Tricaud said: “It is solely the victims who constituted the file on the French side, so by definition, it is one-sided. If you add the emotion the case has stirred up, I would be very surprised if Bailey is declared innocent.

“He will learn about it from the newspapers, the same way he learned of the order to send him to trial.”

Spilliaert rejected the accusation that the case was somehow concocted by the victim’s family. “French police investigators and judges put the file together, not us,” he added. “We have only played our role as civil plaintiffs.”

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is Paris Correspondent of The Irish Times