Ian Bailey ordered to pay €115,000 for Sophie Toscan du Plantier family by French court

‘I am trying to stay calm in the eye of the hurricane’, Englishman tells Irish Times

Sophie Toscan du Plantier loved the rugged coastal surroundings in west Cork. Photograph: Patrick Zimmermann/AFP

Sophie Toscan du Plantier loved the rugged coastal surroundings in west Cork. Photograph: Patrick Zimmermann/AFP

 

The Paris high criminal court has ordered Ian Bailey to pay €115,000 in damages to the family of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

The money is meant to reimburse the French Commission for the Victims of Infractions (CIVI) for payments to Ms Toscan du Plantier’s mother, father, son, brothers and uncle in 2013.

The French court convicted Mr Bailey, an Englishman living in west Cork, of Ms Toscan du Plantier’s 1996 murder on May 31st.

He has repeatedly denied any involvement in the murder and has denied he ever made any admissions that he killed, as has been stated in the French trial and other court hearings in Ireland.

The decision on damages was handed down on Tuesday by Judge Frédérique Aline, who also presided over the week-long trial.

The six-page decision notes Mr Bailey is “on the run, wanted, convicted” and “unrepresented”. Neither he nor his French or Irish lawyers attended his trial, or Tuesday’s judgment concluding the family’s suit for damages.

Contacted by The Irish Times, Mr Bailey declined to comment on the latest development, but said he was “trying to stay calm in the eye of the hurricane”.

Asked about the award of damages in Paris, Mr Bailey said he did not have “any reaction to it”, before referring all questions to his solicitor Frank Buttimer.

Mr Buttimer also declined to comment on the order at this juncture.

The solicitor has previously called the French trial a “charade” and a “parody” of justice.

The French judgment noted Mr Bailey “was declared guilty of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and condemned to 25 years in prison”. It added: “The court has issued an arrest warrant for the convict.”

“In reparation for moral prejudice,” the court awarded €25,000 each in damages to Ms Toscan du Plantier’s parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, and her son, Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud; €10,000 each to her brothers Bertrand and Stéphane Bouniol; €5,000 to her uncle Jean-Pierre Gazeau; and €10,000 to her aunt Marie-Madeleine Opalka.

The court readjusted downward the damages paid to Ms Toscan du Plantier’s son and brothers in 2013 and added Ms Opalka as a recipient. This was done because Ms Opalka joined the rest of the family as a civil plaintiff in the trial, Laurent Pettiti, a lawyer for the family explained.

The readjustment created a discrepancy of €5,000 between the amount Mr Bailey was condemned to reimburse the state and the amount alloted to the family. A spokesman for the court said the discrepancy was insignificant.

In conclusions presented at the time of the guilty verdict on May 31st, the family’s lawyers had requested a total of €865,000 in damages, including an additional €385,000 from CIVI and €365,000 from Mr Bailey himself.

Mr Pettiti said it was not unusual for the high criminal court to award amounts well below those claimed. “In any case, it is theoretical, since Bailey is insolvent,” he added.

Mr Pettiti noted that the family would in any case receive no further funds, since “Mr Bailey has been condemned to reimburse the French state” for funds already paid to the family.

Conclusions submitted by the family’s lawyers accused Mr Bailey of “savagely killing” Ms Toscan du Plantier “at Dunmanus West, west Cork, near her house in the environs of Goleen, during the night of December 22nd-23rd, 1996”.

The lawyers justified claims for damages by Mr Gazeau and Ms Opalka on the grounds that both were exceptionally close to the victim.

Mr Gazeau was only 11 years older than his niece, and their relationship was “almost that of a brother and sister”, the lawyers said.

Before her niece’s death, Ms Opalka spoke to Ms Toscan du Plantier daily by telephone. She was tormented by guilt at not having travelled to Ireland with her, due to a bad case of flu.

The lawyers also listed the extreme violence of the crime, “the scandalous delay” in the arrival of the State pathologist on the scene of the crime and their “long moral, psychological and physical torment which continues today” as grounds for their suit for damages.

Earlier this month, Mr Bailey said that the ruling to convict him, in his absence, was something he knew would happen.

“I know there are people in this country that know it wasn’t me and I know they are sitting on that, and my prayer has been that the truth comes out,” he told RTÉ.

Extradition proceedings are expected to follow the French murder conviction.

* This article was amended on June 13th, 2019, for clarification purposes.