Toscan du Plantier family lawyer rules out Bailey testifying by video link
An accused person ‘has no legal right’ to testify by video link in a trial in absentia
Ian Bailey, who was released without charge twice and has since denied he had anything to do with the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in Co Cork in 1996. Photograph: Eric Luke
A lawyer representing the family of murdered French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier has ruled out any possibility of Ian Bailey testifying by video link from Ireland at his trial in France over her death.
Alain Spilliaert, who represents Ms Toscan du Plantier’s parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, and her son, Pierre Louis Baudey Vignaud, said the French criminal code is clear that an accused person cannot testify by video link in a trial in absentia.
“Under French law, a main focus of the criminal court, the cour d’assises, is the questioning of the accused person who is required to physically appear in court but if the person refuses to attend in person, then they can be tried in absentia as is the case with Ian Bailey.
“However, under French law in the case of a trial in absentia, the accused person is not questioned because he is not there and he has no legal right to participate by video link and the procedures for a trial in absentia conform to the standards required by the European Court of Human Rights.”
Mr Bailey had suggested he was going to explore the possibility of giving evidence by video link after the French equivalent of the Supreme Court, the cour de cassation, rejected his final bid to overturn the decision by the French authorities to try him over the death of Ms Toscan du Plantier in Schull, Co Cork, in December 1996.
Mr Spilliaert welcomed the decision by the cour de cassation and said he expected that the trial in absentia could proceed by the end of the year. He said that if Mr Bailey was convicted, he expected the French authorities to seek Mr Bailey’s extradition from Ireland.
“The family very much welcome this decision and we would hope now to have a trial in absentia for Mr Bailey by the end of the year. It could be heard some time in December and, given it is a trial in absentia, I don’t expect it would be very long, perhaps two days at the maximum,” said Mr Spilliaert.
“For sure, if Mr Bailey is convicted here in France after a trial in absentia, then the French authorities will issue a European arrest warrant to the Irish authorities for his extradition to France to serve the sentence imposed by the French justice system,” he said.
Mr Spilliaert said he was not surprised by the decision of the cour de cassation to reject Mr Bailey’s appeal against the chambre d’instruction decision to proceed with his prosecution for the voluntary homicide of Ms Toscan du Plantier.
‘Badly beaten body’
“I was not surprised with the decision of the cour de cassation nor with the speed with which they reached a decision because we worked a lot with our lawyers, Guillaume Valdelievre and Laurent Pettiti, on the arguments and we were of the opinion that our arguments were quite strong.”
Mr Bailey (61) was twice arrested by gardaí for questioning about the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier whose badly beaten body was found at the entrance to her holiday home at Drinane in Toormore, near Schull, on the morning of December 23rd, 1996.
Mr Bailey, the Prairie, Liscaha, Schull, was released without charge on both occasions and he has since denied he had anything to do with the death of the French producer or that he ever made any admissions in relation to her death.