The radical anti-father/pro-mother bias of Canada’s courts was on full display last week for all to see. Here’s Barbara Kay’s predictably accurate take on the whole shameful thing (National Post, 1/24/13). The only remarkable attribute of the case is that it mostly played out, not in family courts, but in criminal ones.
Michael Ryan and Nicole Doucet Ryan were married and had a daughter who is now about 12. He ran their family farm in Nova Scotia and she was a school teacher. By his account, they were happy and their daughter was thriving. But Nicole had problems with her own family that were much litigated, including allegations by her sister Peggy that Nicole tried to run her down with her car and statements by her mother that Nicole was sick and would likely try again to kill or injure her sister. The ongoing grief caused by Nicole and her relationship with her birth family plunged her into a depression and caused conflict between her and Michael. In 2007, Michael filed for divorce.
At that time, he says he was ready and willing for Nicole to have custody of their daughter and for him to pay child support. That’s what he expected, but in-depth psychological evaluations of him, Nicole and their daughter, conducted at the behest of the family court, revealed that Nicole wasn’t fit to have more than closely supervised visitation with their daughter. The court so ordered, giving Michael primary custody and presumably ordering Nicole to pay support.
That apparently didn’t sit well with Nicole. For what Michael calls strictly “monetary” reasons, (and what I call “maternal gatekeeping”) Nicole hired a hit man to murder Michael. As so often happens, the “hit man” turned out to be an employee of the police, in this case the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The payoff was recorded on videotape and Nicole was arrested and charged with soliciting the murder of Michael Ryan.
Incredibly, Nicole claimed “duress” due to “battered wife syndrome.” That is, she was forced (i.e. under duress) to do what she did (i.e. hire someone to murder her husband). There were several problems with that defense, however. One was that she had no evidence of abuse by Michael. There were no medical records suggesting abuse, no witnesses to abuse, nothing. And of course the psychologists who’d already evaluated all parties found nothing of the sort. Apparently she’d complained to police several times, but none of those complaints were ever substantiated and, since they were made in connection with the divorce case, readily discounted by the RCMP.
The second problem with the defense of duress was legal. In order to be successful, the defendant has to prove an immediate threat of harm from which there is no way out save the one the defendant took. So, in Nicole’s case, she’d have had to prove that she was in immediate threat of physical harm from Michael and that there was no way of avoiding it other than what she did. Transparently, even if Michael had been abusive to her, her premeditated and lengthy series of actions to hire someone to murder him plainly cannot constitute duress that would relieve her of criminal culpability for her actions.
At her trial, Michael Ryan sat in his car in the court’s parking lot waiting to be called to testify to rebut Nicole’s false allegations of abuse. He never was. Apparently Crown Prosecutors were so confident of victory (they had the videotape of her passing cash to the RCMP and discussing the murder-for-hire scheme) that they called neither him nor RCMP personnel who could have thrown light on Nicole’s patently baseless allegations.
Astonishingly, Nicole was acquitted by the trial judge. Apparently he/she bought the battered woman defense despite there being no evidence of abuse save Nicole’s word for it and the fact that legally it couldn’t have amounted to duress.
So the Crown appealed to an appellate court for the province of Nova Scotia and then to the Supreme Court of Canada. It was that last appeal that was decided last week. In it, the court acknowledged that the defense of duress had been improperly allowed by the trial judge and overturned Nicole’s acquittal. But, in perhaps the most astonishing event in the entire sorry affair, the court stayed all further proceedings. That means that Nicole may not be retried, the people of Canada will not be permitted to punish a heinous wrongdoer, Michael Ryan will not be able to tell his story, the RCMP will not be able to tell theirs, Michael Ryan will forever be judged (as he has been by the press) a monster who abuses women and children and of course, a woman who attempted to have her husband murdered will walk free with no record of criminal wrongdoing.
Supreme Court’s Action Is Clear Gender BiasWhy did the Supreme Court take the all-but unprecedented step of staying the proceedings against Nicole? Because, according to the justices, she’d suffered enough. That is, although there was no evidence of abuse beyond her word, and despite the fact that, even if there had been evidence, it would have no legal impact on her case, in some bizarre and unexplained way, it was time to be nice to an attempted murderer.
Here’s something the court managed to overlook as well: Michael Ryan and his new partner have been living in Ontario and caring for his daughter for the past five years. During that time, there have been no allegations of abuse against her, no signs of abuse noted by teachers, principals, aides, doctors, relatives, neighbors, etc. In fact, she seems to be growing up a happy, healthy young girl. And of course Michael’s current partner has registered no claims of abuse either.
And isn’t it strange that someone who, according to Nicole, was so constantly abusive in her relationship, all of a sudden became a model citizen in his next one? Actually, it’s not in the least bit strange. The simple fact is that Michael Ryan has never abused his wife, his partner or his daughter. But that simple, obvious fact is too much for the likes of Supreme Court justices to grasp. In any case, to do so would be to interfere with their real goal which seems to have been the release of a dangerous woman. Nicole blew it the first time. Will she be more careful the next?
The radical gender bias of Canadian courts is on parade in all its finery in this case. Does anyone on the planet imagine that if Michael Ryan or any other man had attempted to take out a contract on his wife’s life, gotten caught in the act on tape and then claimed, with no evidence to corroborate his defense, that he had done so because his wife abused him and his daughter, he would be a free man today because he had “suffered enough?” The very idea is absurd. As Barbara Kay said, “Something is gender-rotten in the state of justice in this country.”
A great many studies show the judicial system treating women and girls far more leniently than it does men and boys. This is a perfect example.