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01.06.2019 Europe

Paris court convicts British national in Ireland of du Plantier murder

AFP/Peter Muhly
JUN 1, 2019 EUROPE

A Paris court has sentenced Ian Bailey, a former British journalist, to 25 years in prison for the murder in 1996 of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Tried in absentia, Bailey's lawyer told RFI the decision was a "grotesque miscarriage of justice".

Bailey has repeatedly denied any involvement in the killing of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and did not attend the three-day trial in Paris.

There was no jury and the three judges took around five hours to reach their verdict and hand down a 25-year prison sentence. Prosecutors had demanded 30 years.

Frank Buttimer, Bailey's defence lawyer, said this was not a criminal trial and his client's guilt had been "pre-determined".

"[Bailey] has been wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit," he told RFI,  "which by any standards is a grotesque miscarriage of justice. Otherwise in Ireland he is innocent and has been deemed to be innocent by our criminal justice system."

Nobody has ever been charged in Ireland in connection with Toscan du Plantier's death. Neighbours found her badly-beaten body near her holiday home in south-west Ireland more than 22 years ago.

Bailey, who lived three kilometres away from her at the time, was questioned twice by the Irish police but released without charge.

Paris authorities have twice demanded Bailey's extradiction and twice Irish authorities have refused.

For Buttimer, France has treated Ireland with "an incredible lack of respect" since the investigation in Ireland was launched in 2008. Bailey, a former journalist born in Manchester, has had to remain in Ireland ever since.

"He has been a prisoner in the Republic of Ireland since [France] decided that it was OK to seek his removal under a European arrest warrant system. He has not been able to leave this country since that time. I believe that France will  be relentless in its pursuit of my client by whatever means it can."

French authorities have indeed requested his extradition for a third time.

Bailey cannot appeal the verdict. But under French law anyone found guilty of a crime in absentia is entitled to a second trial where they are present in court and have legal representation.

Read: the background to the trial and the case against Ian Bailey