Nova Scotia police “acted reasonably” and “did not fail to protect” Nicole Doucet Ryan, the school teacher who tried to hire a hit man to kill the husband she said was abusing her, according to a new report released by the federal RCMP watchdog.
“It is my conclusion that the RCMP did not refuse to assist Ms. Doucet; on the contrary, RCMP members were responsive to the family’s conflicts,” said Ian McPhail, interim chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP
Doucet, the last name she now goes by, said her husband had pointed a gun at her a number of times, threw pieces of furniture at her and had threatened to burn the house down with her and her daughter inside if she tried to leave.
The woman criticized the police, saying she had complained to officers but was told it was a “civil” matter and there was nothing they could do.
However, when she began to seek out a hit man to kill her husband in 2008 — saying it was the only way to save her and her daughter — the RCMP deployed an undercover officer to act as a hit man. Shortly after she agreed to pay him, she was arrested.
The Supreme Court of Canada said it was “disquieting” that police failed to protect her.
The commission, however, said the RCMP’s investigation was consistent with its policies involving domestic violence.
In other instances, the report found there were no reasonable grounds for police to believe Doucet was a victim of domestic violence.
The document also said RCMP officers conducted proper investigations when dealing with the family.
Numerous calls to police
The review maps the couple’s tumultuous history.
They separated in 2007.
According to Ryan, Doucet refused to let him visit their daughter. He alleged she wasn’t feeding the girl properly.
The commission said emails between the pair showed that Doucet was angry Ryan had a new girlfriend.
On Nov. 23, 2007 police responded to a call at the home. That’s when Doucet alleges her husband threatened to kill her.
He was subsequently arrested for uttering threats and she was referred to Victim Services.
"I was afraid. I needed help," Doucet told an investigator.
Responding Const. Jonathan Racicot spoke to her friends and family and ensured she had a safe place to stay. The report found he responded in accordance with RCMP policy.
Doucet made a series of calls to police the November incident, including once when she spotted Ryan driving on the highway and was concerned he was going to visit their daughter at school.
Doucet didn't report any abuse during the family court proceeding.
When asked why, she told police, “What is considered abuse? Is it when Mike Ryan says, you know, ‘You kind of made me feel like I raped you last time. Why won’t you talk to me?’ Is that sexual abuse? Is it?
“Is there somebody holding me there? No. But I’m afraid.
"I don’t have proof, and I know you need proof. Without proof, they can’t do anything. So what is the point of even saying anything? I’ve always been told that I can’t prove anything, and I can’t."
The commission looked over 25 reports and found RCMP properly investigated all of the calls.
“The commission acknowledges and recognizes that domestic violence and, more specifically, battered women’s syndrome are complex issues of which members must be aware,” the report says.
“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.”
Never called to testify
In January Canada's top court ordered the Crown to drop Doucet’s case. With all proceedings against her stayed, Doucet cannot be retried for counselling to commit murder.
Ryan was never called to testify.
Nova Scotia's justice minister had referred the case to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP and asked it to review the RCMP's handling of calls for assistance from Doucet.
In a statement released Wednesday, Justice Minister Ross Landry said he accepts the findings of the report.
"It's clear that this family was struggling with serious issues that had very serious consequences," Landry said. "This case is a reminder for all of us to work together to help struggling families."
The commission interviewed Doucet, Ryan and seven RCMP officers. Only one provided a contradicting account of the events.
Const. Alexandre Garault said he felt another constable had been biased towards Doucet because of her custody issues.
The commission is an independent agency set up by the federal government to review public complaints against the RCMP. It is not part of the RCMP.