Canada's top court is hearing arguments over whether hiring a hit man to
kill an abusive spouse can be considered part of the so-called battered
The emotionally charged case involves a Nova Scotia woman acquitted
of counselling to commit murder after she attempted to hire an
undercover RCMP officer to kill her husband.
Nicole Ryan was arrested in March 2008 and charged, but was acquitted
two years later when the province's highest court agreed that she had
no other way out of an abusive relationship.
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruled in 2010 that her 15-year marriage amounted to a "reign of terror."
Nova Scotia prosecutor William Delaney argued before the Supreme
Court of Canada Thursday that Ryan's circumstances don't entitle her to
the Criminal Code defences of duress and self-defence.
Delaney argued that she wasn't entitled to the defence of duress
because her life wasn't in imminent danger after she had moved in with
relatives and was in the process of getting a divorce.
The nine justices grilled Delaney over whether Ryan's case could be
adapted to fit the Criminal Code definition of self-defence, under which
the battered woman's defence falls.
Ryan's lawyer, Joel Pink, said the accumulation of threats as well as
a history of physical, sexual and mental abuse led her to attempt to
hire the undercover officer.
He also said the Nova Scotia court accepted Ryan's version of events "in total."
Ryan called the police at least nine times and begged for protection for her and her daughter, but got none, said Pink.
Even though Ryan and her husband had separated, her husband, Michael
Ryan, would turn up at their daughter's school, prompting fears that he
had plans to abduct her, said Pink.
The Supreme Court of Canada recognized battered women's syndrome in 1990.