IAN Bailey’s conviction in Paris for the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in West Cork was warmly welcomed by the relatives of the murdered French woman who hailed the conviction as a step in the process towards securing justice for their loved one.
Speaking after the 30-minute verdict was delivered by President of the Court, Judge Frederique Aline at the Cour d’Assises in Paris, Ms Toscan du Plantier’s son, Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud (38) said he was in no doubt that the court had made the right decision.
‘The judgment is very clear – Ian Bailey killed my mother 22 years ago and the judges declare that Bailey has to go to jail for 25 years and so this was the first trial with a focus on the facts of the case and that is a first ever in either Ireland or France and they declare Ian Bailey the murderer.’
‘There is no longer any doubt – it is very emphatic so now we will attend to the next step and one day for sure, Ian Bailey, who killed my mother, will go to jail. I am no judge but the judge said that after 22 years of saying Ian Bailey was the killer, now we know and it’s been proven in law.’
Mr Baudey-Vignaud said it was now very important for the family to take this step. ‘We were convinced by all the facts and the proof – the judges are professional judges and they said all the proofs were right, they are very clear and they have shown that by imposing a 25-year sentence which is a long sentence – it’s a big decision.’
The news of the verdict from Judge Frederique Aline and her colleagues, Judge Didier Forton and Judge Geraldine Detienne after five hours of deliberation was met with a respectful silence but the moment the judges rose from the bench, there were emotional scenes among Ms Toscan du Plantier’s family.
Bertrand Bouniol paid tribute to his parents, Marguerite and Georges, for their tenacity in seeking justice for his sister, saying that they had shown tremendous fortitude over the last quarter century and he was delighted for them to take another step along the road towards getting justice for his sister.
‘My parents started this procedure 23 years ago so it is a very long time for them. It’s an important step – we know that nothing is finished because we have to continue our fight to have the extradition of Mr Bailey and have another trial, but today was a very important day.
He said the verdict was a very emotional time for them. ‘My father is here but my mother is not – she came at the beginning of the week but it was too difficult for her, particularly today, when we didn’t know how long the judges would be deliberating, and how long it would take, but she is very emotional at the decision.’
Joining with his brother, Stephane, Bertrand assisted his father, Georges from the court at the end of a trying week. Mr Bouniol Snr, while he welcomed the outcome, admitted that he felt far from elated when he heard the judge deliver her conviction or ‘condemnation’ of Mr Bailey.
‘It’s not enough because I want my daughter to be alive and with us here today as she should be, and that is not possible,’ said Mr Bouniol, adding that it was nonetheless an important step to have Mr Bailey convicted in the quest
to get justice for his daughter.
The family’s lawyer, Alain Spilliaert, who addressed the court for the family, along with colleagues Laurent Pettiti and Marie Dose, strongly defended the decision of the French justice system to proceed with the trial of Mr Bailey in absentia, saying it was a legitimate outcome to a credible trial process.
‘The judgment was very emphatic and comprehensive – it addressed all the issues that have been raised by Ian Bailey over the years and dealt with in a very thorough way. A trial in absentia, according to European laws, is a valid process and can take place when a person refuses to attend. It is entirely in keeping with the presumption of innocence so it’s an entirely credible process. It’s been a long process after Mr Bailey made appeals to the Chambre d’Instruction and the Cour de Cassation so it’s not as if he did not have an opportunity to make his case to French justice.’
Earlier, French public prosecutor, Jean Pierre Bounthoux said there was ‘overwhelming’ evidence Mr Bailey murdered Ms Toscan du Plantier and he accused Mr Bailey of showing ‘distrust and unbearable contempt’ towards the French justice system and of ‘cowardice’ by refusing to attend the trial.
‘Mr Bailey is mocking us. I don’t reproach him for looking at the full moon, for being borderline, being alcoholic, being violent towards his partner, a failed journalist and a failed gardener. It is far more serious than that,’ he said.
Saluting Ms Toscan du Plantier’s memory, and appealing to the three-judge court to give her justice, he expressed admiration for Ms Toscan du Plantier’s family in campaigning to have the trial take place before he launched a strong attack on the Irish DPP for failing to bring a charge against Mr Bailey.
He claimed the DPP’s 2001 review of the case had taken every piece of evidence and systematically tried to ‘invalidate’ it.
‘As the document is not signed, not dated, I initially thought it was written by Bailey’s lawyers. The language is always conditional when it’s against Bailey, affirmative when it clears him.’