UPDATED 24 APRIL 2010: Ian Bailey was arrested by Irish police when the French authorities presented a European warrant in a civil court proceeding. The arrest raises questions that are fundamental to the proper running of the European Court of Justice. The assumption among member States is that each country in the EU acts in good faith in the operation of its criminal justice system. Can this assumption survive a rejection by one member state of the validity of a decision not to prosecute in another?
ON THE COVER of the current issue of Village magazine¹ is the headline "Falsely Fingering Sophie's Killer" and inside follows five pages written by editor Vincent Browne and journalist Sara Burke that suggests there are systemic problems inside An Garda Siochana concerning the revision of statements made to the Irish police. Every police service wrestles with this issue as detectives helpfully clean up transcripts to make them more pointed for the prosecution. In the case revolving around the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier on the night of 22 December 1996, the evidence points back to a bungled police investigation--the case Ian Bailey has brought to court already. It also points to the dangers of quickly stereotyping brusque personalities who do not acquiesce to a police presence. It raises questions why recently-retired local sergeants from Schull and Goleen weren't drafted to assist with the case.
I have met Ian Bailey on a few occasions, all social, years ago. Back then, I knew Ian as a direct, opinionated and forward bloke. He often tried to complete my sentences for me--helpful because I had less than 24 months in Ireland at the time and I didn't know the vernacular. From personal experience gleaned after more than 100 hours of police interrogation in my personal and professional lives, I know the importance of playing dumb and letting the questioner set the pace. Interject your agenda and often the interrogator selectively lifts portions of your comments, assembling a composite that you did not create.
In the aftermath of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in County Cork nearly nine years ago, gardaí failed to secure the extended local environment. That failure allowed dozens of people to freely leave Irish territory without cross-check or monitoring. While investigators could have focused on the possibility that someone from France was stalking Sophie during her last days in Schull, they instead patched together a case against Ian Bailey, an English journalist with a colourful local history. The long investigation did not meet the standards expected of a capital case and consequently the Department of Public Prosecution did not file against Ian Bailey.
The ensuing investigation must uncover problems with the investigative process itself and the troubling tendency for detectives to revise statements made in Garda interrogation rooms. For my part, I always write my statements with heavy pressure using my own ballpoint pen. I place a plain white paper under every page and I carry those pages away with me. All Garda stations have reams of A4 Foolscap paper that can be used this way. Ask, and you have your own record that might help document the trend of the revision process that seems to underlie many botched investigations in this Republic and beyond. An important note: if you are accused, you need a solicitor, not a biro.
¹Vincent Browne -- "Falsely fingering Sophie's killer" in Village, 26 October 2005.