Strategic Use Of Media

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[Frank Buttimer, the solicitor for Ian Bailey and his partner Jules Thomas in their civil action against the State, at the High Court this morning]

In the High Court today, Martin Giblin, SC, for Ian Bailey and Jule Thomas, told the court that there had been “an extraordinary level of communication between the gardaí and the media of which we were unaware”.

“It is in the statement of claim that the media was used against the plaintiffs. The level of contact is beyond belief, we have a list involving hundreds of communications with journalists and we weren’t aware the communication was of that nature. It seems the operation to retrieve that material is ongoing.”

Further to this, Mr Buttimer spoke to Mary Wilson on RTÉ’s Drivetime this evening about the phone call conversations that were recorded at Bandon Garda Station in relation to the investigation into the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, for which Ian Bailey was arrested twice and released without charge on both occasions.

Specifically, they discussed the high level of contact between gardaí and journalists. They later talked about Mr Bailey’s legal team’s efforts to obtain the names of three senior gardaí pertaining to the investigation.

Mary Wilson: “But isn’t that just what you’d expect to happen at a time, this was a hugely high-profile murder that took place in December of 1996. Journalists, not just from Ireland but from France as well, had come to West Cork, they were pursuing the case. So you would, in the course of events, you’d expect a lot of contact?”

Frank Buttimer: “You would of course, absolutely, that applies to any criminal event or of any event of general interest to the media, the media has to make its contacts to put out the news, there’s no issue about that.”

Wilson: “So what makes this different?”

Buttimer: “Well we allege, in our proceedings, that there was a strategic interest on the part of An Garda Síochána in utilising the media and there are two specific purposes which we maintain in our pleadings that they had in mind when they were using the media. Purpose No.1 was an evidential matter and I’m under some constraint here in relation to the directions to the High Court, so I’ll be very, very careful about that. But the second, and it’s quite an obvious one, which we have alleged, is that the fact that Mr Bailey’s arrest and indeed matters leading up to his arrest were strategically leaked to the media for the purpose of portraying Mr Bailey as the likely party responsible in relation to this matter, to create an image in the minds of the public that this was the person who must have committed this heinous crime so as that there would be an image of him in that respect, which we say strategically was used by An Garda Síochána for purposes which we would say were improper.”

Wilson: “So the journalists were used by gardaí to spin a particular line? Is that what you’re saying?”

Buttimer: “We have said it, it’s in our public pleadings, we have said it, yes.”

Wilson: “Now something else you asked for today as well, was access to information involving the identity of three senior gardaí named in a document, I think, before the Supreme Court?”

Buttimer: “Yeah, this has been in the public domain again, for some period of time. We received in an unsolicited fashion, from the Department of Justice, in the appeal against the extradition, certain material which we had not known existed. In that material are certain memoranda prepared by the Office of the DPP, and the local State solicitor in West Cork, tending to show, what we would allege, and which is stated in the memoranda, to be improper approaches by senior members of An Garda Síochána, whose purpose was to influence a decision on the part of the DPP. We have sought the identities of those senior members of An Garda Síóchána by way of a discovery application to the State. The defendants in the proceedings have maintained that it’s not a matter for them because the material in fact is the property of, or is in the possession of the DPP’s office. We have confirmed to the court today that we have applied to the DPP’s office to receive redacted memoranda in relation to that matter so that we can identify those parties formally so that we can see whether this whole information that we’re looking for fits into the strategy which we believe was applied to generate the, what we would call, false image, false intention, proper intention to prosecute and matters of that nature. We expect or we would hope that the DPP will respond to our request in the relatively near future in that regard.”

Listen back in full here

Level of contact between gardaí and media in Toscan du Plantier case ‘beyond belief’ (RTÉ)

Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

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