SCOC: Duress no excuse for woman who hired hit man

The Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa, Ont. (JOHN MAJOR/QMI AGENCY, file)

The Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa, Ont. (JOHN MAJOR/QMI AGENCY, file)

Jessica Murphy, Parliamentary Bureau

, Last Updated: 5:27 PM ET

OTTAWA — Canada’s highest court ruled Friday a Nova Scotia woman who attempted to hire a hit man to kill her estranged abusive husband should not have been allowed to use the defence of duress at trial.

Because police ignored her pleas for help, however, the Supreme Court of Canada imposed a stay of proceedings and Nicole Ryan will never again be tried for the crime.

In 2008, Ryan attempted to hire a contract killer for $25,000 to kill her violent and controlling husband after some 15 years of abuse, fearing he would kill her and her daughter.

But the hit man was an undercover RCMP officer.

Ryan has been free for the last five years following her acquittal by two lower courts on a charge of counselling someone to commit the offence of murder. That acquittal has been overturned.

The court’s decision clarifies how the defence of duress can be used, saying it’s only available in situations where the accused is forced to commit a crime against a third party under threats of death or bodily harm.


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