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French authorities make 'unprecedented' and 'unorthodox' request ahead of Ian Bailey hearing, High Court hears

Bailey will contest the attempt when the planned three-day hearing begins.

Ian Bailey leaving the High Court in February of this year.
Ian Bailey leaving the High Court in February of this year.
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated May 12th 2020, 3:06 PM

FRENCH AUTHORITIES HAVE made an “unprecedented” and “unorthodox” request to view the legal submissions on Ian Bailey’s objections to his extradition there, the High Court has heard. 

Bailey is facing a 25-year prison sentence for the murder of filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier and a three-day hearing where he will contest the request for his surrender was today scheduled to commence before the High Court on 15 July. 

Ronan Munro SC with Marc Thompson BL, for Mr Bailey, said the legal submissions were very close to finalisation and came to around 40 pages in length.

He would need around two weeks to finalise them, he added.

However, Mr Munro explained that a request had been received from French authorities to view the submissions from both the State and Mr Bailey ahead of the extradition hearing.

He noted that the issuing of such documents seemed to be outside the statutory procedure. 

Munro further stated that he was not aware of any “free-wheeling” statutory right which the issuing State had to ask for this.

“I can say to the court with confidence that it is an unorthodox application but the court is well able to deal with it,” he said. 

Counsel for the Minister for Justice, Leo Mulrooney BL, said two letters, dated 18 March 18 and 14 April 14, have been received from the French authorities. These were handed into the court. 

Mr Justice Paul Burns said they seemed to be letters from the French authorities requesting submissions from both parties, which was nothing to do with the court. 

However, Mr Mulrooney said that the Minister for Justice would not release the submissions without a ruling from the court. 

The case was listed for mention next Monday and Mr Justice Burns said he would need to hear legal argument concerning the matter. The judge said the Minister for Justice could decide what his position was in relation to the request in the meantime. 

Mr Munro said he had reservations about the request and he wanted the proper statutory provisions followed.

“In my experience it is unprecedented. I can’t think of a case where an executing State has sought this,” he added. 

In reply, Mr Justice Burns said that although “this certainly had not happened before” it did not mean that it was not allowed. 

Bail

Bailey was not present in court for today’s list management procedure. He was remanded on continuing bail until 15 July.

Last February, the High Court fixed 5 May as the start-date for the three-day hearing.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic placed many court cases in doubt.

The President of the High Court previously gave a general practice direction that only urgent business should be dealt with to minimise the number of people attending court.

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This is the third time French authorities are seeking Bailey’s surrender in relation to the death of du Plantier, whose badly beaten body was found outside her holiday home in Schull in December 1996.

The 63-year-old Englishman, with an address at The Prairie, Liscaha, Schull, west Cork, was convicted of the French woman’s murder in his absence in a Paris court in May 2019.

The three-judge Cour d’Assises in Paris accordingly imposed a 25-year prison sentence on Bailey in his absence.

Bailey denies any involvement in the mother-of-one’s death. He did not attend the French court and had no legal representation in the proceedings, which he has described as a “farce”.

His senior counsel, Munro, previously told the High Court that they will be opposing surrender on grounds related to “fundamental rights” and that the authorities’ previous two extradition attempts were “relevant” to their points of objection to the present attempt.

The court has also heard that Bailey swore an affidavit setting out certain factual matters, particularly in relation to his health.

The Supreme Court refused to extradite Mr Bailey in 2012 holding that surrender was prohibited because the alleged offence was committed outside French territory and Irish law does not allow prosecution for the same offence when committed outside its territory by a non-Irish citizen.

A second French extradition request in respect of MBailey was dismissed as an “abuse of process” by the High Court in 2017. On that occasion, Mr Justice Tony Hunt held that the “unique features” of the case justified “termination” of the proceedings.

Mr Justice Hunt said Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions had concluded “long ago that there is no basis for either (a) charge or trial on this matter in this jurisdiction, and unusually, a comprehensive statement of reasons for this prosecutorial decision came into the public domain during the previous Supreme Court” case.

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About the author:

Alison O'Riordan

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