Stay granted to abused Nova Scotia woman who tried to hire hit man

by Mike Blanchfield

OTTAWA – A Nova Scotia woman who tried to hire a hit man to kill her abusive husband is free after the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a stay of proceedings in her emotional case.

The high court also raised serious questions about the conduct of the RCMP and Nova Scotia prosecutors, saying it is “disquieting” that the Mounties chose to mount a sting operation to arrest Nicole Ryan rather than respond to her husband’s “reign of terror” over her.

Ryan was originally acquitted of counselling to commit murder in 2010, a decision that was upheld by Nova Scotia’s appeal court. She was arrested in 2008 when she tried to hire an undercover RCMP officer to kill Michael Ryan — who had threatened to kill her and her daughter and burn their house down.

Technically, the Supreme Court granted the Crown appeal and overturned the acquittal, saying her defence of duress wasn’t valid.

But they shut down any attempt by Nova Scotia prosecutors to re-try her.

By an 8-1 margin they said it would be unfair to subject her to a new trial and instituted a stay of proceedings.

The court also highlighted the fact that the RCMP did not adequately respond to Ryan’s numerous calls for help, which forced her to resort to attempting to hire a killer.

“The abuse which she suffered at the hands of Mr. Ryan took an enormous toll on her, as, no doubt, have these protracted proceedings, extending over nearly five years, in which she was acquitted at trial and successfully resisted a Crown appeal in the Court of Appeal,” justices Louis LeBel and Thomas Cromwell wrote in the ruling.

“There is also the disquieting fact that, on the record before us, it seems that the authorities were much quicker to intervene to protect Mr. Ryan than they had been to respond to her request for help in dealing with his reign of terror over her.”

The judgment avoided any comment on its precedent-setting 1990 battered woman’s ruling, which allows abuse victims accused of killing to plead self-defence.

Friday’s ruling represents a legal victory for Ryan but it does not give her what she was originally seeking when she tried to hire a hit man — protection for her daughter.

Her lawyer Joel Pink has told The Canadian Press that Michael Ryan and his girlfriend “took off with the daughter after the trial and before the decision” and “we have not heard from her since.”

In their ruling the justices summarized the plight of the 115-pound Ryan during her marriage to the 230-pound ex-soldier.

LeBel and Cromwell noted that the trial judge accepted that Ryan’s testimony about the abusive behaviour of her husband was, in fact, true.

“For example, Mr. Ryan’s violent and threatening behaviour included outbursts at least once a week, where he would throw things at the respondent’s head, physically assault her and threaten to kill her,” the justices wrote.

“The respondent testified that Mr. Ryan often told her that he would kill her and their daughter if she ever tried to leave him.”

On another occasion, Michael Ryan took his wife and daughter to a remote, forested spot and told them this was where he planned to bury their bodies.

Ryan’s lawyer argued that his client called police at least nine times seeking protection from her husband.

Instead, the RCMP eventually arrested her in March 2008 after they sent an undercover officer to pose as the hit man that she was trying to hire to kill her husband.

The couple had separated and moved apart, but Ryan became terrified for her daughter’s safety when her father began showing up at her school.

“While she had engaged the police and other agencies in an effort to assist her in the past, the evidence was that her problems were viewed as a ‘civil matter’,” the justices said.

“She felt so vulnerable that the phone call of the undercover police officer appeared to her as the solution to all her problems. On the basis of these findings, the trial judge found that the common law defence of duress applied and acquitted the accused.”

In their ruling, the nine justices unanimously agreed that the duress defence was improperly applied at trial.

But rather than subject Ryan to a new trial, they ordered a stay of proceedings instead. One that point, one justice dissented.

Justice Morris Fish said a stay was not a proper legal remedy and that a new trial should have been ordered.




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Stay granted to abused Nova Scotia woman who tried to hire hit man

  1. A Victim, Really?
    THe husband was never arrested, never charged, never faced his accuser. So the story comes completely from her. WOW! A women who is guilty of attempted murder (conspiracy), is believed over a Canadian soldier, during a custody battle? Did anyone think she might , just maybe, be thinking her custody issues would go away if he was gone too? If he is so abusive, how did find and marry another women who is raising the daughter even to this day.
    Sorry, this is not a case of an abusive husband/father, this is a case of a female murderer who is being let free………………….again!

  2. A year as passed since the SCOC decision to stay the proceedings against Nicole Ryan. Since that order from the SCOC, we have heard in order, from Michael Ryan in a youtube video, the RCMP chief in NS, and finally the RCMP independent Public Complaints Commision. Everyone saying the same thing. “No abuse”. In fact, the evidence the investigative reporters have disclosed through their many articles as they follow this story, have shown that Nicole Ryan did not act alone. But the “Question that remains” is “when will I get the opprotunity to testify against Nicole Ryan’s allegations of such abuse?????

  3. In the above article,
    Friday’s ruling represents a legal victory for Ryan but it does not give her what she was originally seeking when she tried to hire a hit man — protection for her daughter.

    Ironically enough, the SCOC and the lower courts did not acknowledge the fact that the Nova Scotia Family court ordered a Child need’s assessment and after reviewing the findings, gave me sole custody and No access to Nicole Ryan. This hearing was before her criminal trial. I have had sole custody of our daughter since 2008. No !! the Supreme courts did not want to hear that part.
    What is truly disturbing is the fact that Nicole Ryan’s Lawyer knew of this and it is reported above
    Her lawyer Joel Pink has told The Canadian Press that Michael Ryan and his girlfriend “took off with the daughter after the trial and before the decision” and “we have not heard from her since.”
    Nicole Ryan’s Lawyer does not mention that we have been in contact with Nicole Ryan’s counsel all along but have not received correspondence in return. Nicole Ryan did not mention in her statement after the SCOC decision in Jan 2013 that she refused to pay the court ordered child support and her CSAP school board wages had to be garnished. To date, Nicole Ryan has made no application to the family court for any concerns for her daughter’s safety. She has recently appeared in family court in regards to an application I made to have child support increased as she has been back to work as a school teacher since her aquittal. I have been informed by the courts that she has taken voluntary leave from her job and does not have to pay child support. No gender bias here……

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