The High Court ruled that Ian Bailey could not be extradited to France to serve a 25-year prison sentence imposed on him by a French court for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in West Cork ago 24 years.
Judge Paul Burns delivered his judgment on Monday dismissing the state’s request for the extradition of Mr Bailey, stating that his surrender remained excluded under section 44 of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003.
The judge also found that the delivery of the Englishman had been prevented because of an “acquired or acquired right” on the part of Mr. Bailey “for the benefit of previous court decisions refusing such delivery”.
Speaking in criminal courts following the judgment, Mr Bailey’s lawyer Frank Buttimer said his client was “extremely relieved” by the decision and the impact on his life over the past 24 years had been “extremely difficult”.
Mr. Bailey (63) was arrested at the Criminal Justice Palace in December 2019, following a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) issued by the French authorities.
It was the third attempt by French authorities to seek the surrender of Mr Bailey in connection with the death of Ms du Plantier, whose severely beaten body was found outside her holiday home in Schull in December 1996.
The French authorities had previously requested the surrender of Mr Bailey in 2010. The High Court ordered his extradition, but this decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2012, which ruled that section 44 of the 2003 law on the European arrest warrant prohibited surrender because the alleged offense had been committed outside French territory and Irish law did not allow prosecution for the same offense committed outside its territory by a non-Irish national. Mr. Bailey is a British citizen.
A second French extradition request against Mr. Bailey was rejected as an “abuse of process” by the High Court in July 2017. On this occasion, Judge Tony Hunt found that the “unique characteristics” of the ‘case justified the “termination” of the proceedings. He said the minister was “estopped” or prevented from obtaining a surrender order from Mr Bailey in light of the 2012 Supreme Court ruling on identical relevant facts.
The former journalist, with a speech at The Prairie, Liscaha, Schull, West Cork, was found guilty of murdering the Frenchwoman in her absence by a Paris court in May 2019. The Assize Court, with three judges, in Paris therefore sentenced Mr. Bailey to 25 years in prison in his absence. Mr Bailey, who denies any involvement in Ms du Plantier’s death, did not appear in French court and was not represented by a lawyer in the proceedings, which he described as a “farce”.
Three day hearing
The Englishman had challenged his surrender during a three-day extradition hearing before the High Court last July, his lawyers arguing that a request to extradite their client to France for the third time was “an abuse of procedure ”.
Opposing a request to surrender Mr Bailey to France, Ronan Munro SC argued that Mr Bailey had an “unshakeable and absolute right” not to be surrendered to France, which had in no way been way threatened by subsequent developments in the law.
The lawyer said there was a binding Supreme Court ruling in 2012 banning the surrender of Mr Bailey on the basis of section 44 of the European arrest warrant act 2003, which has remained intact and intact. In addition, the Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Act 2019 did not materially affect the Supreme Court ruling in 2012 and therefore the High Court was bound by it.
The law has changed since the High Court ruling in 2017, allowing a person who is an Irish citizen or ordinarily resident in Ireland to be prosecuted here for an offense committed outside Ireland.
Mr Bailey’s legal team had also opposed the Englishman’s surrender due to the state’s failure to appeal against the High Court’s decision not to extradite the defendant to France in 2017, which they said created “an estoppel problem”. [a legal principle that prevents someone from arguing something or asserting a right that contradicts what they previously said or agreed to by law].
David Conlan Smyth SC, also on behalf of Mr Bailey, called on the court to find that there had been “disproportionate, excessive and culpable delay” on the part of the issuing state in translating the former journalist in court, which, according to him, remained unexplained. The lawyer pointed out that 24 years had passed since the opening of the criminal investigation and seven years after the request had been rejected by the Supreme Court. “At what point does the EAW become so oppressive and binding that there is a violation of the fair trial rights of Article 6? We say that this date has passed for a long time, ”he said.
In response, attorney for Justice Minister Robert Barron SC said that “in a bizarre way” Ireland had become a “safe haven” for Mr Bailey as he could not travel anywhere in Canada. outside the European Union on pain of arrest. He said that Mme du Plantier’s family felt they had not obtained justice and that the High Court had a “prima facie” obligation to surrender the Englishman, suspected for 24 years of having killed the mother of ‘a child, to France.
The Irish High Court was uncertain what evidence would be available to French authorities in the event of a retrial of Mr Bailey in France and what questions would likely arise, argued Mr Barron.
At the start of his judgment on Monday afternoon, Judge Burns said he would simply make the judgment “long” and not make any formal order. He postponed a formal order for two weeks to allow the state to seek leave to appeal the case.
In the 63-page written judgment, Judge Burns pointed out that Mr. Bailey’s guilt or innocence over the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier was not a problem in the proceedings and that the High Court was concerned only with whether the applicant was entitled to an order to surrender the defendant to France at the foot of the EAW in court.
Regarding section 44 of the EAW Act 2003, the judge noted that Irish law has now been amended so that Ireland now exercises extraterritorial jurisdiction over murder not only when the alleged offender is an Irish citizen, but also where the alleged offender is ordinarily resident. within the state. Mr Bailey is, and was at all relevant times ordinarily resident in the State, and Ireland could therefore exercise extraterritorial jurisdiction over him in relation to a murder committed outside Ireland, he said. declared.
“However, this amendment did not lead to a basis of reciprocity between France and Ireland with regard to the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction for the offense of murder in this case,” said the judge. He further underlined that the French basis for extraterritoriality in this case remains the nationality of the victim, while the Irish basis for such extraterritoriality is the nationality or habitual residence of the alleged perpetrator. “However, the respondent’s surrender remains excluded under section 44 of the 2003 law,” he said.
Judge Burns said the amended statutory provision did not indicate any intention to deprive persons to whom a benefit or right was acquired by a previous court decision. “In the absence of such intention, the defendant has the right to retain the advantage or the right not to be delivered to France as determined by the Supreme Court in Bailey No 1 and the High Court in Bailey No 2 ”, declared the judge.
Mr Bailey was in court for the hour-long hearing and used a scarf to cover his mouth.
The case has been registered for October 27. Mr Bailey has been remanded on bail until then, but the judge said his presence was unnecessary on that date.
Conlan Smyth, on behalf of Mr Bailey, said his client intended to ask for a fee on October 27.
In a statement following the judgment, Mr Bailey’s attorney Frank Buttimer said: “Mr. Bailey is extremely relieved with the decision taken today. The impact on his life of the whole situation has been extremely difficult for him for the past 24 years. He always expresses his sadness and his sympathy for the late Madame Toscan du Plantier, while always maintaining his innocence in relation to anything or any connection with this terrible crime … The case is of course not finalized because the judgment has to be formalized and the State must then decide on the question of whether it will continue. This is entirely the business of the state and aside from the fact that Mr Bailey intends to return to West Cork to try and get on with the rest of his life as best he can, subject any other decision taken by the State in relation to any authorized appeal. “