Sophie Toscan du Plantier family lawyer says Ireland must act

Alain Spilliaert represents parents Georges and Marguerite Bouniol and son Pierre Louis Baudey Vignaud

Sophie Toscan du Plantier was killed in West Cork in 1996.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier was killed in West Cork in 1996.

 

A lawyer acting for the family of murdered French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier has expressed hope that Ireland will respond promptly to a call by the European Commission to address shortcomings in its application of European Arrest Warrant (EAW) legislation.

Alain Spilliaert, who acts for Ms Toscan du Plantier’s elderly parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, and her son Pierre Louis Baudey Vignaud, said he was encouraged by the European Commission’s decision to look at Ireland’s interpretation of EAW legislation.

Mr Spilliaert said the European Commission closely monitors legal developments in all EU countries and was aware of the recent decision by the Irish High Court to refuse the extradition of Mr Bailey to France to serve a 25 year sentence for the killing of Ms Toscan du Plantier.

On October 12th, Mr Justice Paul Burns refused Mr Bailey’s surrender after the French authorities had issued a third EAW for Mr Bailey’s extradition following his conviction in absentia in the Cour d’Assises in Paris in May 2019 for the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier in West Cork in 1996.

Mr Spilliaert acknowledged the European Commission’s letter to Ireland on October 30th requesting Ireland comply with requirements of the EAW framework decision focussed in particular on Ireland complying with the six-month mandatory time limit on dealing with EAW requests.

However, he said the second part of the European Commission letter pointed out Ireland had “provided additional grounds for refusal of a European Arrest Warrant, which affect judicial cross-border co-operation in criminal matters”.

Mr Spilliaert said although the letter did not refer to the Bailey case specifically by name, he believed the words “additional grounds” was a reference to decisions by the Supreme Court in 2012 and Mr Justice Burn’s ruling last month to prohibit Mr Bailey’s extradition on the grounds of reciprocity.

Under French law, a person can be tried in France for the murder of a French citizen abroad but Irish law has no reciprocal provision, only allowing prosecution for offences outside of Ireland where the alleged perpetrator is an Irish citizen or a person ordinarily resident in Ireland.

“Obviously, the Bailey case is one of the most famous cases that has been reviewed by the European Commission for years so when the Commission sends a letter to Ireland and refers to “additional grounds”, I think we are into Bailey’s case and the decisions of the Irish courts in relation to it.”

He said the Commission has given Ireland two months to take the necessary steps to address the shortcomings identified by the Commission and given the rulings by the Supreme Court in 2012 and the High Court in 2020, he believed this meant Ireland needed to introduce new legislation.

“The only way I believe that Ireland can address these shortcomings given the interpretation of the Irish courts of the European Arrest Framework Document of 2002 is for the Irish parliament to introduce new legislation that will remedy the situation,” he said.

Mr Bailey was twice arrested by gardaí but never charged in Ireland after the DPP decided he should not be prosecuted and he has repeatedly denied any involvement in the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier or that he ever made any admissions in relation to her death.

Meanwhile, Ms Toscan’s du Plantier’s family have expressed their continuing dismay.

Ms Toscan du Plantier’s brother, Bertrand Bouniol, told The Irish Times the family’s position on the matter was simple: “A court has declared that he is guilty - that is the reality, decided by three professional judges after a trial that was above reproach.”

Speaking on behalf of his parents and his nephew as well as his brother, Stephane, Mr Bouniol said: “The Paris court declared him guilty of Sophie’s murder and sentenced him to 25 years imprisonment.”

Mr Bouniol said that the Irish justice system had refused to extradite Mr Bailey was not surprising, but the French criminal court had established Mr Bailey’s guilt while highlighting the shortcomings of an Irish investigation.

“The Irish State decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court, but whatever the decision, no one today can consider that this criminal case has remained a mystery,” he said.

“We take note that Ireland refuses to turn with dignity this sad page of its legal history, but our family no longer needs it to do so.”