Warning: Spoilers follow for Netflix’s Sophie: A Murder in West Cork, particularly about Ian Bailey, who says he is completely innocent in the case.
If you’ve seen Sophie: A Murder in West Cork on Netflix, you may be wondering why Ian Bailey hasn’t been extradited to France, where was convicted in absentia in 2019 in the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. “In absentia” means he was not physically present when he was tried and convicted.
Toscan du Plantier, a Frenchwoman, was brutally murdered in 1996 in West Cork, Ireland. Her death is the subject of Netflix’s new three-part true-crime docuseries. Much of the series focuses on Ian Bailey, the English journalist and longtime Schull resident who has been accused by residents and Toscan du Plantier’s family of murdering Toscan du Plantier.
Bailey was interviewed extensively in the docuseries and vehemently denies any involvement in her murder. However, Bailey was convicted in the Cour d’Assises de Paris, and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
So why is he still living in Ireland as a free man?
In short, the Irish High Court ruled in October 2020 that Bailey, 63, could not be extradited under Section 44 of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003, according to the Irish Times.
Section 44 states: “A person shall not be surrendered under this Act if the offence specified in the European arrest warrant issued in respect of him or her was committed or is alleged to have been committed in a place other than the issuing state and the act or omission of which the offence consists does not, by virtue of having been committed in a place other than the State, constitute an offence under the law of the State.”
We know that sounds very legalistic. Sophie offers this explanation at the end of the docuseries: “Under French law, Ian Bailey remains convicted of murder, but would be entitled to retrial if extradited. The Irish courts have refused multiple requests for his extradition. They don’t recognize the French law used to convict Bailey.”
The reason that Ireland doesn’t view France’s law as valid is that the countries have different policies on extraterritorial jurisdiction, which is a government’s legal ability to exercise authority outside of its boundaries. According to the Irish Times, under French law, France can try a person accused of committing a crime against a French citizen that took place outside of France. But in Ireland, extraterritorial jurisdiction only applies if the accused perpetrator, not the victim, is Irish.
In 2012, the Irish Supreme Court ruled that the Irish extraterritorial law was not the equivalent of France’s, and so they are not reciprocal — meaning Ireland does not have to extradite Bailey to France despite the 25-year prison sentence awaiting him there.
As the Irish Times notes, as of October 2020, the ruling was still open to appeal.
Sophie: A Murder is West Cork is now streaming on Netflix.