Whatever decision High Court Justice Michael Peart comes to in a few weeks’ time, the Ian Bailey extradition trial will be a landmark moment in Irish and European legal history.
Ian Bailey, a former journalist with several British publications, is on trial before the High Court in Dublin on foot of a European Arrest Warrant seeking his extradition to France, where Judge Patrick Gachon, a well-connected magistrate, has endorsed a warrant seeking his extradition and trial in France to face trial for the alleged murder of a French film-maker, Sophie Toscan du Plantier, in a rural Irish summer village over 14 years ago.
The case presents many complex legal problems, but the largest by far is that Ireland’s own public prosecutor, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), decided in its investigations after the crime that Bailey wasn’t worth prosecuting through the Irish courts, and following three arrests and interrogation by Irish police, Bailey was released on each occasion without charge.
Complex legal issues of double jeopardy and European-wide law dominate much of the legal discourse on the case, but a letter from the DPP to the High Court stating that after an exhaustive review of the evidence nothing new has been found, has led many to question just what exactly the French are hoping to achieve by dragging Bailey into the High Court over a decade after the crime was allegedly committed.
Even among those still convinced of Bailey’s guilt, a quiet feeling exists that the man is entitled to get on with his life after being more or less acquitted by the DPP in the wake of the crime all those years ago; the timing of the trial, just weeks after Bailey received his Law degree from University College Cork, also seems rather vindictive.
I personally don’t have an opinion to offer on Bailey’s guilt or innocence in the case (and who without knowing the facts could?) but I do feel that the extradition attempt threatens to make a complete mockery of Ireland’s legal sovereignty if it succeeds.
Our economic sovereignty was recently surrendered in large (if not complete) part to our new puppet-masters at the IMF and the EU; now our legal sovereignty threatens to go down a similarly disastrous route.
That take on the case might be overly-simplistic, but my gut feeling, rather than legal understanding comes to the fore: the alleged crime took place on Irish soil, and if the Irish police and prosecutor have decided not to prosecute Bailey for the offence, then neither Judge Patrick Gachon nor his European counterparts have any right whatsoever to try force Bailey’s extradition through the Ireland's sovereign and independent courts.
If the French really have new evidence that can link Bailey to the crime, then the correct step should be for them to forward that evidence onto the Gardaí (Irish police), who can then make a renewed assessment of Bailey's guilt or innocence. Even then, and without that French extradition attempt, the double jeopardy principle would be a very hard one to overcome.
Trying to bulldoze a European Arrest Warrant through the Irish Courts, though, against the express will of the State’s own prosecutor, threatens to stifle the Irish State’s natural legal right to pursue its own criminal investigations, and to have the outcome of said investigations respected by all -- irrespective of the nationality of one of those parties, or whatever evidence comes to light years after the crime has been done and dusted.
If Justice Peart capitulates to the French and European extradtion demands, then he risks kow-towing to the new European politico-economic order which fasts threatens to eclipse all facets of our sovereignty, legal now included.
If Pearse and company hadn’t turned in their graves when the IMF marched into Dublin, then I think they most certainly would then.