HALIFAX – An independent commission has cleared the RCMP of wrongdoing in the case of a Nova Scotia woman who tried to hire a hitman to kill her allegedly abusive husband, saying the force had no reasonable grounds to believe Nicole Doucet was a battered wife.
The report released Wednesday concludes the Mounties did not fail to protect Doucet and raises questions about the woman’s credibility.
However, the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP also stresses its mandate was not to determine whether any abuse actually occurred between the former couple.
“The RCMP was provided with no information that would have enabled any member to form a reasonable belief that there was violence in the relationship or that Ms. Doucet was in danger,” Ian McPhail, interim chairman of the commission, wrote in the review.
“Further, she provided no information upon which a criminal investigation could have been undertaken.”
Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry called for the review by the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP amid public concerns about how Doucet’s case was handled.
Doucet, a teacher from western Nova Scotia, was arrested in 2008 when she tried to hire an undercover Mountie to kill Michael Ryan. She accused him in court of threatening to kill her and her daughter.
She was acquitted in 2010 of counselling to commit murder. The trial judge said Doucet, formerly Nicole Ryan, was under duress and not receiving help from police. That ruling was later upheld by Nova Scotia’s Court of Appeal.
In January, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the duress defence was improperly applied at trial but ordered a stay of proceedings, saying it would be unfair to subject Doucet to a new trial. The high court also said the RCMP did not adequately respond to the woman’s numerous calls for help, which the force has steadfastly denied.
“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,” the Supreme Court said in its 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.”
Doucet’s lawyer, Joel Pink, has argued that his client called police at least nine times seeking protection from her husband.
The commanding officer for the RCMP in Nova Scotia issued a statement saying an internal review confirmed the Mounties did not receive a “multitude” of complaints from Doucet about domestic violence. Assistant commissioner Alphonse MacNeil said officers acted appropriately and professionally.
Ryan has also denied his ex-wife’s allegations of abuse, dismissing them as “lies.”
In its review, the commission said a search of RCMP records found about 25 reports naming either Doucet, Michael Ryan or both. But the commission said there was only report of domestic violence, and in that case, it ruled the RCMP’s investigation was consistent with the force’s policies.
“This was not a situation where the RCMP refused to assist the parties; on the contrary, RCMP members were responsive to the family’s conflicts,” said McPhail.
“I conclude that the RCMP acted reasonably in each of its dealings with Ms. Doucet and her family, and did not fail to protect her.”