Ian Bailey (pictured right), a British journalist suspected in the 1996 murder of the wife of French filmmaker Daniel Toscan du Plantier, won a lengthy appeal Thursday against France's attempt to extradite him from Ireland.
AFP - The chief suspect in the murder of the wife of high-profile French filmmaker Daniel Toscan du Plantier in Ireland 16 years ago on Thursday won his appeal against extradition to France.
Ian Bailey, a British journalist who has lived in Ireland for many years, said after the ruling at the Supreme Court in Dublin that he had been living through "hell" while he fought the French attempts to extradite him.
"I am relieved it is now over," he told reporters. "It has been an absolute hell, I can't put it in words."
Sophie Toscan de Plantier, 39, was found beaten to death at her home in County Cork, southern Ireland, on December 23, 1996.
Bailey lived just a few kilometres from the remote house in Schull, and suspicions about his involvement were aroused when he was one of the first people to arrive at the scene of the brutal murder.
He has always protested his innocence and Irish prosecutors never charged him, a decision confirmed in subsequent reviews of the case.
But the French authorities began their own investigations and in February 2010 issued an arrest warrant for Bailey.
The Briton was detained and bailed shortly afterwards, and in March 2011, Ireland's High Court approved his extradition to France to face prosecution, although it granted him leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
At a hearing in January this year, Bailey argued that he should not be extradited on the grounds of his British nationality, the failure of Irish prosecutors to charge him, and the fact that the French authorities had not expressly indicated their intention to put him on trial.
In her ruling on Wednesday, Chief Justice Susan Denham allowed the first and third arguments and, with the backing of the other four judges at the Supreme Court, granted Bailey's appeal.
"It is clear from the facts of the case on documents before the court, that while a decision has been made in France equivalent to charging the appellant, that decision does not incorporate a decision to try him for the murder of Madame Toscan de Plantier," she said.
The family of the murder victim expressed dismay at the judgement.
"It is a shock for the family, which the parents are finding hard to deal with," their lawyer Alain Spilliaert told AFP, adding that they had been "relatively confident after the favourable decision by the (Irish) High Court".
However, he suggested that the French authorities may decide to put Bailey on trial in his absence and, if convicted, seek his extradition a second time.
Daniel Toscan du Plantier, producer of a host of films including "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover" starring Helen Mirren, died in 2003 aged 61.
Speaking after the Supreme Court decision, Bailey's solicitor Frank Buttimer expressed his sympathy for the victim's family but said the application for extradition had been "misguided".
"One would express one's sympathies to the family in relation to the death of their daughter, their sister, their loved one. It was a terribly brutal crime," he said.
"Insofar as the legal proceedings are concerned, Mr Bailey has always maintained his innocence. He repeats it."
Date created : 2012-03-01