Ian Bailey trial to begin in Paris with the accused absent
Bailey will not attend week-long trial in French capital so cannot appeal verdict
If convicted, Ian Bailey could be sentenced to 30 years in prison. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Ian Bailey, an English man living in west Cork, will go on trial on Monday afternoon in the Paris assize or high criminal court for the voluntary homicide of French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier over 22 years ago.
Neither Mr Bailey nor his lawyers will attend the week-long trial, which will recess on Thursday for the Ascension bank holiday.
If convicted, Mr Bailey could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Mr Bailey has been a virtual prisoner in west Cork since France issued European arrest warrants for him in 2010 and again in 2016. Ireland twice refused to extradite him. If he ever leaves Ireland, Mr Bailey risks arrest and transfer to France for a retrial in his presence.
Because he will not attend his trial, Mr Bailey cannot appeal the verdict. His French lawyer, Dominique Tricaud, appealed the July 27th, 2016, decision to send him to trial. The Paris Appeals Court and Court of Cassation, France’s supreme court, last year rejected Mr Bailey’s attempts to avoid trial.
In the event of a conviction, French authorities are likely to issue a third European arrest warrant. The victim’s family have expressed hope that Ireland would then turn him over.
Mr Bailey is unlikely to serve time in a French prison, however. An Irish legal source with experience of the case said Ireland considers in absentia trials a violation of the right to self-defence, and thought it unlikely Ireland would extradite Mr Bailey.
Evidence cited against Mr Bailey in French court documents derives from the file transferred by An Garda Síochána to the French investigating magistrate in December 2008.
It centres on scratches and cuts which were seen on Mr Bailey’s hands, forearms and forehead after Ms Toscan du Plantier’s death; discrepancies in his accounts of his whereabouts on the night of the murder, December 22nd, 1996; a bonfire set by the accused three days after the killing; inside knowledge of the crime demonstrated by him in freelance journalism reports; and seeming admissions of guilt by Mr Bailey.
Frank Buttimer and Mr Tricaud, Mr Bailey’s Irish and French lawyers, told a press conference on May 23rd he has not been able to defend himself because neither he nor his lawyers had been granted access to the entire 24-volume file. French authorities say Mr Bailey relinquished that right by refusing to be interviewed by the investigating magistrate in November 2011, and refusing to participate in his trial.
Mr Bailey’s lawyers also complained that trial witnesses were summoned too late, and that only witnesses for the prosecution would have their travel expenses reimbursed. They accused gardaí and French investigators of ignoring all leads that did not point to Mr Bailey.
They claimed the trial constitutes double jeopardy, since the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Mr Bailey.
Mr Buttimer said Mr Bailey was the perfect culprit. “He is English. He has no family. He has no friends in Ireland . . . If you listen to the tapes [from Bandon Garda station] between police concerning Bailey, they call him ‘the English b*stard’.”
The French court has cited 30 witnesses, most of them Irish. But it is not clear how many will travel to Paris. The film director Jim Sheridan, who is making a documentary on the case, is expected to testify.
Mr Tricaud said Mr Bailey has promised to accept the verdict of a “Russell Tribunal,” modelled on the human rights court founded by the British Nobel Prize winner Bertrand Russell in 1966. He said the tribunal will be held soon in Ireland, and that a well known figure will preside over it.