The lawyer said that his client would be better off had he been put on trial for murder. It was an astonishing statement. Who could ever wish to stand accused of murder?
According to Ian Bailey's lawyer, his current plight plumbs far darker depths. Nearly 14 years after first coming under suspicion for murder, Bailey is still being pursued, although he has never been charged with the crime.
"Franz Kafka couldn't have thought it up," Bailey's lawyer, Martin Giblin, told the High Court last Thursday.
A French magistrate is seeking the extradition to France of Bailey. The magistrate wants to question Bailey about the murder of 39-year-old Frenchwoman Sophie Toscan du Plantier in west Cork on 23 December, 1996. She died a violent death, apparently fleeing her attacker in the early hours of the morning from her holiday-home cottage outside Schull.
Bailey is a 52-year-old Englishman, who moved to west Cork in 1991. He worked as a journalist and was one of the first reporters to get the story of the Du Plantier killing.
Within days, he came under suspicion for the crime. He was arrested weeks later, on 10 February, 1997, and detained for a second time the following year. A file was sent to the DPP. No prosecution was recommended. Nearly always in cases like this, a decision not to prosecute is taken on the basis of lack of evidence.
Meanwhile, the French began their own investigation under an obscure law which allows authorities to investigate the death of a French national abroad. The ultimate result of that investigation is the request to hand Bailey over for questioning. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that the French have acquired any more evidence than was available to the Irish prosecuting bodies.
The request to hand him over was made using a European arrest warrant, which was given statutory powers under a 2003 act. However, this case is the first of its kind in which surrender of a person is requested for questioning, rather than specifically charging with a crime.
Du Plantier's family has spoken out about their frustration that nobody has been brought to justice for the violent killing of their loved one. The family is well connected in the French establishment. On Wednesday, Du Plantier's parents, Marguerite and Georges Bouniol, arrived in Cork for their daughter's anniversary mass, an occasion that has been marked each December for the last 13 years.
Margueite Bouniol told local reporters at the airport: "We are old now so we will not suffer for many years more. We do not wish what we are living for anyone.
"She [Sophie] suffered so much when she tried to escape and then she was hunted down. She suffered so much that we want to suffer as well."
The attorney general wants Bailey extradited. On the face of it, the case for doing so appears extremely dubious. Under the 2003 act, the arrest warrant cannot be executed if the person in question is deemed to have no case to answer by the prosecuting body in the country in which he resides. This would imply that Bailey can't be extradited.
However, in 2005, the law changed, permitting extradition irrespective of the DPP's decisions. Thus, the attorney says, Bailey should be handed over.
Bailey's legal team say this would be a gross abuse of his rights. The decision not to prosecute him was made prior to 2005, and extraditing him would require applying the law retrospectively. They also say that the whole affair involving the French amounts to an abuse of his right to fair procedure.
Judge Michael Peart must decide the issue.
The hearing was due to begin at 10.30am on Thursday in Court 21 of the new Courts of Criminal Justice Building. Proceedings didn't get underway until after 11am, but after 14 years, what's a half hour here or there. Fourteen years isn't too far off length some convicted murderers serve for a life-imprisonment sentence. Since 1996, Du Plantier's husband Daniel has died, and her only child, who was 10 when she was murdered, is now a young man in his mid 20s.
Counsel for the attorney, Robert Barron, set out the case and read an affidavit sworn by Bailey. He recounted how he had come under suspicion and all the grief that flowed from that. He claimed that the current proceedings have meant that he is unable to visit his 86-year-old mother in the UK.
Giblin told the judge that the attempt to extradite represented an insult to the Irish state. He said that no new evidence had been uncovered by the French.
"There is no doubt that the Irish authorities wouldn't be allowed to prosecute him without new evidence," Giblin said.
Apart from the dozen or so reporters – including one French representative – the only other occupants of the benches directly behind the lawyers were Bailey and his partner, Jules Thomas. Bailey listened intently to the submissions, leaning forward in his seat on occasion.
Earlier this month, he was conferred with a law degree from UCC.
Thomas sat by his side throughout the hearing. She has stood by him through the turbulence of all that transpirerd after Bailey was arrested by the gardaí for the killing, and all that has happened in the years since.
A libel hearing seven years ago heard how he had viciously assaulted her on a number of occasions, including one after which one of her eyes was reported to be "the size of a grapefruit".
Another witness at that hearing told of the state he had found Thomas in one day in May 1996 when he visited her home.
"Jules was curled up nearly in a foetal position, moaning. Her hair was tousled, large clumps of hair in her hands. Her eye was purple, her mouth swollen, her face had gouges in it. Her right hand had teeth marks. It was as if somebody had their soul ripped out, their spirit gone."
She was also arrested in connection with the Du Plantier murder, but nothing came of it. She gave evidence for Bailey at the 2005 libel trial.
One of the issues raised by Bailey's lawyers last week was the evidence of Marie Farrell, and how it might be treated by the French should an investigation lead to a murder trial.
Farrell was living locally on the night of the murder. Some days later, she told gardaí that she had spotted a man in the early hours of the morning of 23 December at a bridge near the Du Plantier home. She gave the gardaí a description which matched Bailey. Her evidence was regarded as a major element of the case against Bailey, yet it wasn't enough for the DPP to issue a charge.
At the 2003 libel trial, she gave evidence about identifying Bailey. Two years later, she claimed that the evidence was false, that gardaí had pressurised her into making it. An internal garda investigation was launched, the results of which were never made public.
Despite her admission, Farrell has not been charged with perjury.
On Thursday, Giblin referred to Farrell's evidence, retraction, and subsequent statement that she had lied.
"Miss Farrell said she was pressurised by the gardaí," Giblin said. "She gave a description [initially] of a man who could not be Mr Bailey [originally, she described the man she saw as being five foot eight, but he grew in three subsequent statements; Bailey is six foot four]... They groomed her into adjusting her description."
Giblin said that the French had notified the Irish authorities that if witnesses don't turn up for any murder trial, statements will be used as evidence.
"The evidence of Marie Farrell is central to the request [to extradite] but the issue of her retraction is not addressed… It is very difficult to understand how any investigating authority could state that it conducted a proper investigation if Marie Farrell's retraction is not addressed," Giblin said.
Whatever weight was once attached to Farrell's evidence – and it wasn't enough even in its original form on which to base a prosecution – it's difficult to see how anything could turn on it now, in a murder trial in any jurisdiction.
Giblin also told the judge that back in 1997, Bailey had retained a solicitor who advised him to co-operate fully with the garda investigation, which he did. He provided forensic samples. All of that evidence has been accessed by the French magistrate who is requesting Bailey's extradition. Giblin asked whether the solicitor would have advised as he did if there had been any possibility of events leading to where they were now at.
"Would he [the solicitor] have done so if he thought that one day he would be subjected to this?" Giblin asked. He also pointed out that under French law, inferences could be drawn if Bailey now decided that he wanted to exercise his right to silence.
Judge Michael Peart reserved judgement until 21 January. His brief is to decide the issue on the law. Should he rule to extradite, it will break new ground legally. The French will be delighted, and Bailey will be taken to France, barring a successful appeal to the Supreme Court. His fate thereafter will be observed with great interest.
Should the judge rule to refuse the request, the decision is likely to be greeted with dismay by Sophie Toscan Du Plantier's family.
There is also a political dimension to the case. If Peart rules not to extradite, the Irish government can turn to their French counterparts and say they did all they could to hand the man over, but he was protected by the courts. The French authorities, in turn, can point the finger of blame at the Irish, and tell the dead woman's family that they did all they could, but the Irish wouldn't play ball.
Bailey's violent past casts him as a deeply unpleasant individual with whose predicament it would be difficult to sympathise. Rights, however, are not based on the characters or personalities of those on whom they are conferred.
Nearly 14 years after first coming to the attention of the gardaí, Bailey has never been charged and is still fighting to be left alone. He is also pursuing a long-running civil action against the gardaí over his treatment at their hands.
This morning, Sophie Toscan Du Plantier's family are attending the anniversary mass for their murdered daughter in Goleen, west Cork.
Get off to a profitable sports betting start today at sportsbetting.co.uk