Ian Bailey: fighting extradition

THE attorney general's public clashes with Ian Bailey during a 2003 libel trial present a possible "conflict of interest" in the state's attempt to endorse a European arrest warrant for Bailey to face questioning over the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, the High Court will be told later this year.

On Wednesday, the High Court will set a date for a lengthy legal battle to determine whether the former journalist should be extradited to France to face questioning about the murder of the French filmmaker. Bailey is expected to attend.

Film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier was murdered at her holiday home at Toormore, near Schull in west Cork, in December 1996. Bailey was arrested and questioned twice by gardaí in 1997 and 1998 and released without charge in both instances.

Bailey has always denied any involvement in her death and is contesting the French extradition request. The 54-year-old was once the chief suspect in the killing and has launched proceedings to sue An Garda Síochána and the state for allegedly conspiring to wrongfully convict him of the Frenchwoman's murder.

In 2003, Bailey took a libel action against eight newspapers claiming they defamed him. Six of the eight newspapers were cleared of defaming him. In his judgement, Judge Patrick Moran described the former journalist as a violent man who sought out the limelight and enjoyed notoriety. Judge Moran found that the articles, which had said that Bailey was the chief suspect for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, were justified. He found in favour of Bailey in relation to one allegation in articles published in The Sun and the Irish Mirror, which claimed he had been violent towards his ex-wife.

The current attorney general, Paul Gallagher, legally represented several newspapers at the libel hearing. In the course of the case, Gallagher got Bailey to admit that he had beaten up and injured his partner Jules Thomas on a number of occasions.

In April, it emerged that the French extradition warrant was sent to the Department of Justice in March and was under consideration by attorney general Paul Gallagher. One aspect expected to be raised at the extradition hearing by Bailey's legal team is that a major conflict of interest exists because of the attorney general's courtroom clashes with Ian Bailey.