British man given 25-year jail term over 1996 murder of French woman in Ireland

Ian Bailey leaves the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin, Ireland, in a 2010 file photo.
Ian Bailey leaves the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin, Ireland, in a 2010 file photo.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS) - A French court on Friday (May 31) sentenced a British journalist in absentia to 25 years in jail for the murder of a French film producer in Ireland 22 years ago, and issued a new European arrest warrant to try to press Ireland to extradite him.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier's body was found bruised and battered while she was on holiday in the small Irish coastal village of Schull, in December 1996.

Ian Bailey, a British journalist and poet who lives in Ireland, became a suspect after speaking to others about the killing after it took place.

He denies blame and Irish authorities have never prosecuted him for the killing.

Under French law, a person suspected of murdering a French citizen in another jurisdiction can be tried in France. Ireland rejected his extradition to France on a number of grounds, including that the crime had not taken place there.

The victim's family said it hoped the new arrest warrant would mean Bailey would now be sent to France.

"Justice has been served, now it needs to be carried out,"Toscan du Plantier's son Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud told Reuters.

Bailey's lawyers, who did not attend the trial, have said that his abrasive personality, and claims that he had made to have information about the murder, had contributed him ending up a suspect, but that he was not guilty.

Bailey's French lawyer Dominique Tricaud said the sentence was a "judicial error" and Bailey was innocent.

French prosecutors had been pushing for a 30-year prison sentence in the case.

Toscan du Plantier's husband Daniel Toscan du Plantier was a leading producer and worked with renowned film-makers including Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman.