RCMP deny ignoring abuse allegations in hit-man case

Nova Scotia RCMP are dismissing criticism from Canada's top court and claim its officers did everything they could to protect Nicole Doucet Ryan, the school teacher who tried to hire a hit man to kill the husband she said was abusing her.

'We responded on every occasion and we did what we could,' say RCMP

Assistant Commissioner Alphonse MacNeil says officers tried to help Nicole Doucet Ryan. 3:36

Nova Scotia RCMP are dismissing criticism from Canada's top court and claim its officers did everything they could to protect Nicole Doucet Ryan, the school teacher who tried to hire a hit man to kill the husband she said was abusing her.

The case attracted national attention last month when the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a stay of proceedings in the Nova Scotia woman's case, saying it would be unfair to subject her to a new trial.

Doucet, as she is now known, was arrested in March 2008 and charged with counselling an undercover police officer to kill her husband, Michael Ryan, who was accused in court documents of threatening to kill her and her daughter.

In court, Doucet described years of harrowing abuse at the hands of her husband. But, he was never called to testify or dispute the allegations in court.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision said it was "disquieting" that it "seems 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."

In response, the RCMP began an internal review of the case.

Nicole Doucet Ryan said she turned to police to protect herself and her daughter, but was turned away. (CBC)

On Friday, the commanding officer for the RCMP in Nova Scotia said officers had acted appropriately and professionally.

"We respect the court, we respect the comments they made because they're dealing with the information they have available to them," said Assistant Commissioner Alphonse MacNeil.

"I had the advantage of being able to look back into all our files and talk to the police officers that went there so I respect their comments but I'm here to tell you today that the comments about violent activity that were reported to the court were not reported to us."

MacNeil stressed he was concerned media reports had suggested the RCMP wasn't interested in dealing with domestic violence.

"There's a feeling, I'm afraid, in the community that after the messages that have come out the last two weeks, that the RCMP failed to respond when [Doucet] needed it. That's not the case. We responded on every occasion and we did what we could," he said.

"I want people — particularly those who are suffering histories of family violence — to know that if they need the RCMP or any police service in this province that they can call and we'll respond and we will help them."

'Nothing could be farther from the truth'

Doucet said she called the RCMP numerous times to complain about her husband's abuse, only to be told it was a civil matter. She argued that hiring a hit man, who turned out to be an undercover officer, was the only way to save herself and her daughter.

The RCMP said it reviewed every call it received from Doucet and her husband, including the one occasion Michael Ryan was charged with uttering threats.

MacNeil said that was the only time Doucet told police about specific allegations of violence or abuse.

Nova Scotia RCMP Assistant Commissioner Alphonse MacNeil said he wants the public to know officers will respond to domestic violence. (CBC)

"On one occasion when she contacted us, it was regarding a threat that Michael Ryan had made to her. In that case, we did lay a charge against Michael Ryan. The court placed him on conditions as a result of that and we seized firearms," he told CBC News.

"The other calls she made to us on no occasion was her safety threatened at that time and we responded in every case. She did not give us a statement saying Michael Ryan had caused any of the violent activity around her that reported through the courts."

MacNeil said he's concerned media reports have left the impression that the RCMP will not respond to domestic violence, saying "nothing could be farther from the truth."

"Not every call had to do with domestic violence. But if there was a call where there was a suggestion of violence, we asked if she had been assaulted and her answer was 'No,'" said MacNeil.

"We don't have other recourse. We made sure she was safe and the environment around her was safe before we left but we have no recourse if someone's not willing to give us a statement in order for us to proceed."

The opposition Liberals said the provincial justice department should release the full report or turn it over to the province's Serious Incident Response Team for an independent review.

A spokesperson for Justice Minister Ross Landry said he is still reviewing the report.

With files from The Canadian Press