Painting the national police force in a vastly different light than the Supreme Court of Canada, an RCMP watchdog has found that the Mounties conducted “reasonable investigations” into prior allegations of domestic abuse by a Nova Scotia woman who hired a hit man to kill her husband.
Last January, in an 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada stayed counseling-to-commit-murder charges against Nicole Doucet Ryan, a high school teacher who had been caught trying to hire an undercover RCMP officer to kill her husband. The case had been highlighted as an crucial ruling by advocates who lobby for the rights of battered women in Canada.
The facts are not contentious, though the legal defence is very much so. Over seven months in 2008 Ms. Ryan made repeated attempts to find someone to kill her husband, and was prepared to pay $25,000 for the job. After she was caught hiring an undercover Mountie for the job, she claimed she did so only in response to suffering years of abuse at the hands of her Canadian Forces soldier husband, Michael Ryan, and that she had many times tried and failed to get help from RCMP (the police force of jurisdiction in rural Nova Scotia) in stopping the abuse.
The lower courts had acquitted Ms. Ryan. The Supreme Court of Canada charted a middle course, reversing the acquittal but also staying the prosecution and effectively ending the case unresolved -- though doing so in a manner broadly supportive of Ms. Ryan.
“There is also the disquieting fact that 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 Supreme Court ruled in January. “… It is an exceptional situation that warrants an exceptional remedy. In all of the circumstances, it would not be fair to subject Ms. Ryan to another trial.”
This ruling led the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP to revisit the Mounties’ role in Ms. Ryan’s past allegations of abuse.
And, after six months, chair Ian McPhail gives the police force a passing grade for its job, saying that he reviewed 25 occurrences in which Ms. Ryan, Mr. Ryan, or both had some involvement with the RCMP, 12 of which involved direct conflict between the two parties.
In a statement released 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Mr. McPhail writes that “It is my conclusion that the RCMP did not refuse to assist Ms. Doucet [Ryan], on the contrary, RCMP members were responsive to the family’s conflict.”
“I conclude that the RCMP acted reasonably in each of its dealings with Ms. Doucet [Ryan] and her family and did not fail to protect her.”
One part of the Mr. McPhail’s review of the case finds that Ms. Ryan's insistence that the RCMP failed to protect her “negatively impacts [her] credibility and reliability." The report goes into exhaustive account of the police interactions with the feuding couple.
Overall, the watchdog's review shows that the Ryans’ relationship was a polarizing matter for Mounties assigned to the Meteghan detachment in Nova Scotia. One officer is quoted saying that police believed that Ms. Ryan had “some very serious mental health issues” -- a stance that put him at odds with another officer who told the watchdog agency that he was more concerned with Ms. Ryan’s safety and wanted to get a “panic button” for her.
According to the report, the troubles had started in the fall of November 2007 when the couple was in the midst of separating and were working out visitation rights for their daughter. They were also arguing over several investment properties they had bought together during their marriage.
The first documented police contact was a Nov. 23, 2007, call placed by Ms. Ryan (who police refer to by her maiden name) as her husband was coming to pick up their daughter. “Ms. Doucet reported that Mr. Ryan was upset … that Mr. Ryan had a history of violence that she feared for her safety, that Mr. Ryan had access to firearms,” reads the report.