Ian Bailey remanded on bail

 

Former journalist Ian Bailey, who is wanted by the French authorities in connection with the investigation into the murder of film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork 13 years ago, has been remanded on bail.

At a special sitting of the High Court yesterday, Mr Justice Michael Peart granted bail to Mr Bailey, from Toormore, Schull, Co Cork.

Mr Bailey (53), who is currently studing law at University College Cork, is wanted by the French authorities for the alleged “wilful homicide and serious assault and battery” of Ms Toscan du Plantier.

The body of Toscan du Plantier, who was 39, was discovered at her holiday home in Co Cork in late December 1996. Mr Bailey has always denied any involvement in her death and is expected to contest the extradition request.

At the High Court yesterday, Mr Bailey, dressed in light coloured trousers, blue blazer and a shirt and tie, spoke only to tell the court he was "happy to accept those terms” of bail.

Counsel for the State Patrick McGrath told the court Mr Bailey, was arrested shortly before midnight on Friday after the High Court earlier endorsed a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) seeking the journalist’s surrender.

In reply to Mr McGrath, Sgt Jim Kirwin of the Garda Extradition Unit told the court he called to Mr Bailey’s home late last night and asked the man who answered if he was Mr Bailey.

Stg Kirwin said that in reply Mr Bailey said: “You know who I am. Yes I am Ian Bailey." Sgt Kirwin said that Mr Bailey further acknowledged his date of birth and that Manchester was his place of birth.

When asked if he knew what the charges contained in the EAW were about, the Garda said Mr Bailey replied:“This is an illegal arrest based on false information.”

Stg Kirwin added that Mr Bailey asked for and was provided with more details of charges that are contained in the warrant.

Stg Kirwin said that that he had no objection to bail being granted as he did not believe that Mr Bailey was “a major flight risk”.

However, given the serious nature of the charge, Sgt Kirwin said that an independent surety of €30,000 should be included as part of the terms of bail.

Under cross examination by Martin Giblin SC, who argued that the independent surety was not required for Mr Bailey, Sgt Kirwin accepted Mr Bailey had lived in the same address in Schull for almost 20 years.

Mr Giblin said it had been widely reported in the media that a request for Mr Bailey’s extradition was pending. While all this had been going on Mr Bailey had continued to reside in west Cork.

Counsel also said Mr Bailey had been questioned about Ms Toscan du Plantier and that the DPP had decided not to prosecute his client.

Mr Justice Peart ruled an independent surety was not required. The judge said that as part of the terms of bail Mr Bailey would enter into his own bond of €15,000 none of which had to be cash.

He would also have to reside at his home address, sign on once a week with the gardaí in Bantry, surrender his passport, and gave undertakings not to leave the jurisdiction or seek new travel documents.

The case would be mentioned before the High Court next Wednesday, when it is likely to be further adjourned. Mr Bailey the judge added would not have to attend next weeks hearing.

The court heard the warrant seeking Mr Bailey’s arrest was endorsed by Mr Justice Peart at the High Court on Friday afternoon.

The judge endorsed the warrant after lawyers from the Chief State Solicitor's Office presented the court with the original EAW issued by French magistrate, Judge Patrick Gachon last month.

Previously Mr Justice Peart had asked for the original warrant having expressed concerns about the legality of endorsing a copy of the EAW.

Following yesterday's brief hearing Mr Bailey’s solicitor Mr Frank Buttimer declined to comment on the matter.

Ms Toscan du Plantier was the wife of renowned French film producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier, who died in February 2003.

In 2008, her body was exhumed from her grave in the southern French region of Lozere and taken to Paris for DNA testing.

Lawyers from the Chief State Solicitor's Office went before the High Court in Dublin on Friday afternoon with the original European Arrest Warrant issued by French magistrate Patrick Gachon last month and presented it to Mr Justice Peart.

Last week, Mr Justice Peart had asked for the original warrant and upon receipt of the document yesterday afternoon, he endorsed it, paving the way for the arrest last night of Mr Bailey.

Mr Bailey's arrest is likely to trigger a protracted legal battle as Mr Bailey's solicitor, Mr Buttimer has already indicated that his client will vigourously contest the validity of the warrant and any attempt to extradite him to France when he is brought before the High Court.

Mr Buttimer is on the record as saying that, in what he believes is the unlikely event of his client losing in the High Court, then he will appeal the matter to the Supreme Court as he believed granting a warrant in such circumstances would raise broader constitutional issues.

The news that Mr Justice Peart had endorsed the European Arrest Warrant was on Friday night enthusiastically welcomed by relatives and friends of Ms Toscan du Plantier who have campaigned to have her killer brought to justice.

Ms Toscan du Plantier's uncle, Jean Pierre Gazeau described the news as "fantastic" and congratulated the Irish justice system for its speedy endorsement of the European Arrest Warrant to facilitate the arrest of Mr Bailey.

"This is fantastic and it is so heartening for Sophie's parents, Georges and Marguerite because they have been waiting for 14 years for something like this," said Mr Gazeau who is also president of the Association for the truth about the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier

"Of course we know and fully expect Mr Bailey to fight this in the Irish High Court and the Irish Supreme Court if necessary so we still have many more steps to travel but tonight our hope grows a lot stronger," he told The Irish Times .

Mr Gazeau commended Judge Gachon on his work to date and he re-iterated his challenge to Mr Bailey to come to France to face the magistrate if, as he has continually claimed, he is innocent of any involvement in his niece's death.

"Ian Bailey has always said that he had nothing to do with the murder of Sophie - if that is the case, then he should to come to France to answer the many contradictions between his testimony and those of other witnesses in his libel action - let him come to France," he said.

Lawyer Alain Spilliaert, who advises the family also welcomed the news that European Arrest Warrant had been endorsed and described it as "a historic moment in the long and very determined struggle by the family to get justice".

"I am surprised because I had read that it would take several weeks for the judge to decide but the Irish authorities had shown great urgency and the investigation is now at a critical time but for us now there is a ray of hope in the distance and it's brightening all the time."