Monday, December 02, 2019

By Ruaidhrí Giblin

The High Court will decide later this month whether it will endorse a warrant seeking Ian Bailey’s extradition to France for the murder of filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Ian Bailey

It is the third time French authorities have sought Mr Bailey’s surrender in relation to the death of Ms du Plantier, who was found dead outside her holiday home in Schull in December 1996. Extradition proceedings cannot begin in Ireland until the High Court endorses the French warrant.

Mr Bailey, with an address at The Prairie, Liscaha, Schull, west Cork, was convicted of the Frenchwoman’s murder in his absence in a Paris court earlier this year. The three-judge Cour d’Assises in Paris accordingly imposed a 25-year prison sentence on him in his absence.

The 62-year-old Englishman 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”.

Lawyers for the Minister for Justice told the High Court today that they had received a third European Arrest Warrant from French authorities seeking Mr Bailey’s surrender.

Counsel for the Minister, Robert Barron SC, told the court that the two previous extradition attempts were unsuccessful but in the intervening period, Mr Bailey had been convicted of the Frenchwoman’s voluntary homicide.

Mr Barron said it was the Minister’s practice to draw the court’s attention to matters that might prohibit surrender. He said the Minister would “more or less” be asking the court not to endorse the warrant on the basis that it was prohibited by the Supreme Court’s finding on “extraterritoriality” in 2012.

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.

Mr Barron said that would have been the end of the matter. However, he said provisions introduced in the Criminal Law (Extraterritorial Jurisdiction) Act 2019 raised two possible interpretations of the Supreme Court’s majority finding on extraterritoriality in 2012.

He said he was putting the “two alternative versions of the Supreme Court judgment up in the air”. If the High Court held that surrender was still prohibited – under section 44 of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 – then it could refuse to endorse the warrant.

Counsel for Mr Bailey, Ronan Munro SC, said his client would be asking the court not to endorse the warrant as it would result in his liberty being curtailed.

He said Mr Bailey had taken the “time and trouble” to attend the High Court today “to indicate his respect for the court”.

Mr Justice Donald Binchy said he would adjourn endorsing the warrant to allow both sides make legal submissions.

Mr Justice Binchy said the process of endorsing warrants was “by and large a screening process” to ensure people are “not dragged through the courts” on foot of “flawed” warrants.

He said he believed the process of endorsing extradition warrants was “unique” to Ireland and that he thought it was a good process. It was not a “forum for a full hearing” of matters raised by the application itself, he added.

Mr Justice Binchy said the circumstances surrounding the present extradition request were probably “unique”. He said he was mindful of the fact that once a warrant is endorsed there were certain time limits that had to be honoured.

He put the matter back to December 16 next.

Mr Barron also flagged a “difficulty” with the translation of the judgment of the French court annexed to the warrant. Mr Justice Binchy said it was “very difficult to understand” and he may require a fresh translation.

Once a warrant is endorsed, it is acted upon by detectives from the Garda’s extradition unit.

Ahead of any potential action on foot of the warrant, Mr Munro said he was anxious to avoid any arrest of Mr Bailey “over the weekend”, which happened on foot of the first extradition request in 2010.

The second French extradition request in respect of My Bailey was dismissed as an “abuse of process” by the High Court in 2017, with Mr Justice Tony Hunt holding 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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