Ian Bailey to face French trial early next year, says Toscan du Plantier group

One last bureaucratic hurdle remains before the trial can be scheduled, say lawyers

 

Ian Bailey will be tried by three judges in the Paris assizes or high criminal court in the first half of 2019, whether or not he responds to the court’s summons, lawyers for the Association for the Truth About the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier (ASSOPH) told 30 members at the group’s annual meeting on Monday night.

Mr Bailey, a British citizen who lives in Schull, Co Cork, denies involvement in the murder of Frenchwoman Sophie Toscan du Plantier during the night of December 22nd-23rd, 1996.

The dossier “is on the top of the pile” in the prosecutor’s office, said Laurent Pettiti, a lawyer for ASSOPH. The one- or two-day trial could take place as early as March 2019, but certainly before the session ends in June, he said.

One last bureaucratic hurdle remains before the trial can be scheduled, Mr Pettiti said. French law requires that the 42-page decision of the chamber of instruction of the Paris Court of Appeals, which last February confirmed the charge of homicide against Mr Bailey, must be translated and delivered to Mr Bailey. When he saw the prosecutor recently, she could find no record in court computers of the translation having been made. Mr Pettiti said he was confident the glitch will be resolved and that the date of the trial will be known in December.

Ireland has twice refused to extradite Mr Bailey to France. If he is convicted of the homicide death of Ms Toscan du Plantier, the presiding magistrate will issue a third European arrest warrant.

“Ireland could find herself in the position of sheltering a convicted murderer,” said Jean-Pierre Gazeau, the uncle of the victim and the founder of ASSOPH. “We’re asking for justice, not a manhunt. The trials in Ireland were the result of Bailey filing suits against the press and the Garda. This will be the first time a trial will focus on his actions.”

Alain Spilliaert, also a lawyer for ASSOPH, said the objection raised by the Supreme Court in Ireland in its March 1st, 2012 decision could be an obstacle, even if Mr Bailey is convicted, namely a difference between French and Irish law on reciprocity. The Irish ruling, Mr Spilliaert said, “is totally contrary to the fundamental principles of the European arrest warrant.”

The lawyers have filed a suit with the European Commission against Ireland, for its refusal to extradite Mr Bailey. Mr Pettiti said the Commission’s legal committee could decide by year end to recommend that Ireland be brought before the European Court of Justice for non-compliance. In 2012, the Supreme Court argued that section 44 of the European law was ambiguous.

“With Brexit, Ireland wants to be on good terms with the EU Commission,” Mr Spilliaert said. “To do that, Ireland needs to align its law with the framework law on European arrest warrants.”

An as yet unknown number of Irish witnesses will be summoned by the prosecution and the civil plaintiffs to testify at the trial. Attendance is obligatory under French law. Lawyers say something will be worked out to reimburse travel costs, but they do not know yet who will pay them.

If Mr Bailey is convicted in absentia, he cannot appeal. However, if Ireland were to subsequently extradite him, as lawyers believe it would, he would be retried in his presence. He could appeal the result of the second trial.

ASSOPH was founded 11 years ago. Its membership increased from 60 to 85 members last year, in a sign of growing interest, Mr Gazeau said.

Pierre-Louis Baudey, the son of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, said that “hundreds of thousands of people” around the world have listened to an indepth podcast about the case, made by British journalists Jennifer Forde and Sam Bungey. Audible, the company which produced the podcast, said, “West Cork remains the most downloaded non-fiction title in both the US and UK this year.”

“It has become an international issue,” Mr Baudey said. “The trial will have an impact.”

Marguerite Bouniol, the mother of the victim, is diminished by age and illness. Asked if she will attend the trial, she replied, “If I am still alive . . . We still want justice to be done, but the pain does not change. The pain is eternal.”