Ian Bailey on Thursday lost his court bid to have homicide charges against him dropped in France. However, his Irish solicitor, Frank Buttimer, said Mr Bailey will exhaust whatever remedies are available in French law to vindicate his position.
It is now open to Mr Bailey to make a final appeal to France’s highest court, the Court of Cassation. If that appeal also fails, his case would be tried by three judges in the Paris assizes or high criminal court.
Mr Bailey, a British citizen living in Schull, Co Cork, denies involvement in the murder of French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier during the night of December 22nd-23rd, 1996.
Mr Bailey yesterday said that he was "disappointed but not surprised" that yesterday's court ruling by three judges, had found against him on his appeal. Mr Bailey refused to be drawn on whether he would appeal yesterday's ruling when contacted by The Irish Times. Mr Bailey said that he had spoken briefly to his lawyer Dominique Tricaud who had informed him of the decision of the Chambre de l'Instruction but he wanted to speak with him further before making any decision about an appeal.
Meanwhile, Mr Buttimer said that the French decision to prosecute Mr Bailey was based on a flawed Irish investigation and French investigators had unearthed no new evidence against his client.
"The evidence which I believe the French intend to rely on is no more than the evidence that was rejected 20 years ago by our DPP, the late Mr Eamonn Barnes and repeatedly rejected by the two DPPs who have succeeded him.
“Mr Barnes described it as ‘the thoroughly flawed and prejudiced evidence gathered by the Irish police’ which sums up our position on the matter,” said Mr Buttimer.
Yesterday’s court decision upholds the validity of the charges against Mr Bailey. If an appeal is made, the Court of Cassation cannot reassess the substance of the charges, but has the power to annul the trial on technical, procedural grounds.
Mr Bailey's lawyers have based their case on the 44-page report drawn up in November 2001 by Robert Sheehan, solicitor at the DPP's office, which concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr Bailey. The DPP based his decision not to send Mr Bailey to trial on Mr Sheehan's analysis. Ms Toscan du Plantier's family regard it as deeply flawed.
Lawyers for Mr Bailey and the family talked separately to The Irish Times in the Palais de Justice after the decision was handed down.
They hold diametrically opposed views of the French and Irish justice systems.
Dominique Tricaud, Mr Bailey's French lawyer, said Ireland was "the natural judge" of the case. "Ireland has devoted huge means to this affair," Mr Tricaud said. He claimed the Sheehan report was the equivalent of a file drafted by an examining magistrate, and criticised French officials for ignoring the DPP's decision.
“They act as if Ireland were a banana republic,” he said.
Mr Tricaud called the documents sending Mr Bailey to trial “a tract for the civil plaintiffs”.
He claims the Sheehan report cleared Mr Bailey and that the French are subjecting him to double jeopardy. He also criticised French persistence as a “a judiciary Frexit” contrary to efforts to harmonise European justice systems.
Mr Tricaud predicted it would take 12-18 months for the Court of Cassation to take a decision, and that there will be no murder trial “for two or three years, minimum”.
Laurent Pettiti, the lawyer for the Association for the Truth About the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (ASSOPH), which is close to the victim's family, said the criminal chamber of the Court of Cassation is supposed to rule within three months. In his opinion, the trial could take place as early as next year.
Mr Pettiti also said Thursday’s ruling is likely to revive the question of Mr Bailey’s extradition to France. Ireland has twice refused to extradite Mr Bailey. The lawyer stressed that the Sheehan report “is not an official decision by the Irish justice system. One cannot say that Mr Bailey has been judged in Ireland”.
Pierre-Louis Baudey, the son of Ms Toscan du Plantier, awaited the decision in another part of the building. “It confirms there must be a trial, in France or in Ireland, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “We are getting closer to the truth.”