Gsoc report welcomed by Toscan du Plantier’s son
Pierre-Louis Baudey says he has ‘great confidence’ in French and Irish justice systems
Ian Bailey and partner Jules Thomas, with solicitor Frank Buttimer: Mr Bailey says the fact retired gardaí were not obliged to contribute gave them “immunity in effect”. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
The son of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, the French woman who was murdered in west Cork at Christmas 1996, has welcomed the report from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) which was published on Thursday.
The Gsoc report, which examined the Garda investigation into Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder, found it was poorly managed, but cleared the Garda of having framed Ian Bailey.
“The report strengthens my opinion, and I continue to have great confidence in the French and Irish justice systems which are going forward, slowly but surely,” said Pierre-Louis Baudey, the son of the victim.
He and his family are spending their summer holiday in the home of his late mother outside Schull, in Co Cork.
“At this time there is an accused, who must answer questions,” Mr Baudey continued, referring to Mr Bailey who is to be tried in his absence by a French criminal court for the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier, possibly as early as next spring.
“I never believed in any kind of plot [to frame Mr Bailey],” Mr Baudey said. “I know there were failings,” he added, referring to the fact that the Garda investigation was poorly organised and lost important pieces of evidence, including, according to the report, a blood-spattered gate, a wine bottle found near the scene of the killing and a coat belonging to Mr Bailey.
“Those failings were harmful to my interests,” Mr Baudey said. “But they don’t mean we won’t get to the truth. The report goes in the direction of the truth.”
Alain Spilliaert, the lawyer for the family, said Mr Bailey “should understand that it would be in his interest to appear before the criminal court”.
France has tried unsuccessfully to extradite Mr Bailey from his home in west Cork, and his trial is likely to be held in absentia.
“Mr Bailey has claimed from the beginning that the Irish police investigation was flawed,” Mr Spilliaert said. “This report is important because it confirms a previous judgment from the High Court of Dublin ruling that the Garda criminal investigation was not corrupted.”
Regarding evidence lost by the Garda, Mr Spilliaert said: “In any case, a French judge thought the evidence was solid enough to send the case to trial. Just because there is no DNA does not mean that the criminal file is over. The case is based on the file built up by the Irish police plus the work of French investigating magistrates who worked with the Garda over the past decade.”
Mr Spilliaert said the fact that the Gsoc report also cleared the Garda of having coerced Marie Farrell, a witness who initially testified against Mr Bailey but then retracted her testimony, was also important.
“The French justice system considered that Ms Farrell’s statements and her subsequent retraction were suspicious and helped to justify a trial,” Mr Spilliaert said. “This is one more element. The Gsoc report goes in our favour.”
Responding on Friday to the report, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said there were “obviously issues of some concern”.
He said he would be discussing these issues with the Garda Commissioner “in early course”.
Garda Headquarters has moved to defend itself in the wake of criticism in the report, but has said the Garda would learn from it.
In reply to queries from The Irish Times, Garda Headquarters said it was “currently examining the content of Gsoc’s report with a view to identifying lessons that can be learned” from it.
It added: “However, there have been significant developments in the investigation of crime since the incident subject of the Gsoc report occurred in 1996.
“These include the establishment of the crime training faculty at the Garda College which is tasked with identifying best international practices.”
The Garda also said areas of concern identified by Gsoc no longer applied because a “significant” new management system for property and exhibits has been rolled out.
Speaking after a day trading on the market in Bantry, west Cork, Mr Bailey said he agreed with the sentiments expressed by his solicitor Frank Buttimer who declared that Gsoc was “powerless”.
Mr Bailey said the fact that retired gardaí were not obliged to contribute to the investigation gave them “immunity in effect”. And Mr Buttimer said there would be “uproar” if the case was a current murder investigation. He says it is extraordinary there was no accountability in relation to the disappearance of items.