Battered women have won an important legal victory after Nova Scotia’s highest court concluded a woman “living in a state of terror” was understandably driven to try to arrange for her abusive husband’s murder.
In the landmark decision, the court said the law must be sensitive to the unique plight of women whose lives and well-being are endangered by brutal spouses.
The judges upheld the acquittal of 39-year-old school teacher Nicole Ryan, who had negotiated with an undercover police officer to kill her grossly abusive, estranged husband.
“Ms. Ryan was compelled to take the action she did by normal human instincts and self-preservation,” the judges said in a 3-0 decision. “It would be inappropriate, under these circumstances, to attribute criminal conduct to her.”
They said that the time has come to fully recognize the plight of battered women, noting that the ruling “extends the boundaries of self-defence in a manner that has never been recognized in Canadian jurisprudence.”
Last week’s judgment built on a 1990 ruling, R v. Lavallee, in which the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a woman who shot her abusive husband after he threatened her life had acted in self-defence.
The controversial Lavallee decision remains in force, but feminist legal scholars criticize how few battered women have been able to avail themselves of it. The only other case in which a woman argued the defence of duress in response to a counselling to commit murder charge – an Ontario case in 2000 – resulted in the defendant being convicted.
“The rationale for the defence of duress is quite different,” Nova Scotia Chief Justice Michael MacDonald said. “It involves excusing a wrongdoing in circumstances where the accused is left with no other alternative. Therefore, unlike self-defence, it is not the type of action society would support, let alone applaud.”
Ms. Ryan, who had already separated from her husband, appeared on the surface to have a range of alternatives short of murder, the court said.
“But below the surface, we see a victim of abuse, who at the time of the ‘crime’ appeared to have been living in a state of terror,” it added.
Ms. Ryan said she spoke to the police many times, and was advised that all she could do was obtain a peace bond. However, a prosecutor and counsellor advised her that a peace bond would be futile in stopping Mr. Ryan if he decided to attack her.
Elizabeth Sheehy, a University of Ottawa law professor with expertise in sexual assault law, said the ruling constitutes a legal breakthrough.
“This was a planned and deliberate murder because she had no other way out,” Ms. Sheehy said in an interview. “It was her life and her child’s life versus his.”
At her trial last year, Ms. Ryan testified that her estranged husband had virtually no control over his explosive temper. He repeatedly pummelled her with his fists, held guns to her head and screamed threats at her.
She said Mr. Ryan’s explosive fits of temper escalated to a point where he was sexually assaulting her weekly, threatening her life and specifying where he would bury her.
In desperation, she finally set out to arrange an underworld hit, inadvertently negotiating with the police offer.
Ms. Ryan said that she had given up phoning the police because they seemed incapable of helping her.
“There was no escape,” she testified. “He knew everything about me. He knew my routine. I knew that when he said something, he always acted upon it. I was trapped and I had no way out.”
Ms. Ryan testified that she endured her abusive husband for 17 years because of her respect for the institution of marriage and because she viewed him as a sick man who could be rehabilitated by a devoted wife.
She said that she left her husband only after he threatened to kill their daughter as well.
Prof. Sheehy said it is noteworthy that Mr. Ryan did not testify at the trial. “The Crown didn’t dare put him on the stand,” she observed. “That tells that pretty much all of her testimony was unchallenged.”
Writing on behalf of Mr. Justice Jamie W.S. Saunders and Madam Justice Linda Oland, Chief Justice MacDonald said that the power imbalance in the marriage became obvious immediately after the couple married in 1992.
Ms. Ryan was five-feet, three inches and weighed 115 pounds. Mr. Ryan, a retired member of the Canadian military, was a foot taller and twice her weight.
“Mr. Ryan began his reign of terror by making it clear that he would be in control of the relationship and she would be subservient,” Chief Justice MacDonald said. “It becomes clear that Ms. Ryan became a woman living in constant terror.”
The court emphasized that the law of duress should only be applied if an accused person is in truly desperate straits.
“The accused should be expected to demonstrate fortitude to put up a normal resistance to the threat,” the judges said. “The threat must be to the personal integrity of the person. In addition, it must deprive the accused of any safe avenue of escape in the eye of a reasonable person, similarly situated.”
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal judges stressed that the defence of duress can be used only if the accused reasonably perceived no other safe avenue of escape.
“I must say at first blush that it is easy to empathize with the Crown’s position on this issue,” Chief Justice MacDonald said. “It is hard to imagine that, as a teacher with a steady income, support from family and friends, presumed police protection, a divorce in the works and with the last specific threat months before the ‘crime,’ she would not have other avenues of escape.”
However, context is critical, he said, and the evidence showed that Ms. Ryan had good reason to believe that he husband would explode into violence at any time, killing her and their daughter.
ODDS STILL STACKED AGAINST BATTERED WOMEN WHO KILL SPOUSES
Odds still stacked against battered women who kill spouses
The law has moved a great distance from the days when men were expressly permitted to beat their wives, but the odds are still stacked against battered women who kill their tormentors.
A watershed case that created the “battered woman defence” – the Lavallee case – has proved a disappointment to feminist legal scholars and women’s advocates.
“The law has not advanced very far in 21 years,” said Kim Pate, executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society.
She said the problem is that most women who might benefit from the defence are so frightened of a murder conviction that they jump to accept lenient plea bargains.
“In most cases where Crowns know of the histories of abuse, rather than withdraw charges of first- or second-degree murder, they will often offer a sentencing deal if the woman agrees to plead to manslaughter,” Ms. Pate said.
University of Ottawa law professor Elizabeth Sheehy is currently analyzing 107 cases of Canadian women who killed male partners. In 78 cases, Prof. Sheehy said she discovered the victims were violent men and self-defence was used in some form by the defendants.
Prof. Sheehy, who is writing a book on self-defence in battering cases, said that, “unfortunately Lavallee has not produced much by way of subsequent jurisprudential developments. … nor have many women been acquitted on the basis of Lavallee.”
She agreed that most women with a legitimate battering defence plead guilty to manslaughter.
“The stakes are just so high, the law so uncertain, and the evidential challenges enormous,” she said. “Women who plead out and are sentenced usually invoke Lavallee and their experience of battering in mitigation of sentence, sadly.”
Still, Prof. Sheehy said, Canada is more progressive than most countries, including the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Britain.
Apart from the Lavallee ruling, the only stand-outs are “a couple of brilliant decisions from South Africa's higher courts,” she said.
This decision is devoid of impartiality or objectivity. It makes a mockery of
the fundamental principles of law.
First, the decision is "gender based", the defense is assumed to be only available to women based on "she said". Take the Ottawa decision, she killed her sleeping husband by plunging a knife in his chest while holding a pillow over his head. That's Ottawa with all its mega millions of dollars of feminist services.
Across Canada, any woman with the most unbelievable claims of abuse can have
her husband charged, arrested even though he has blood dripping down his face
while she has injuries to her fists. HE GETS CHARGED, not her. The same woman
gets into a shelter and a referral that results in jumping the line for
subsidized housing and welfare and lifetime support while she spends the next
ten years getting an education etc.
Our Judiciary is riddled with man hating judges at the bottom end, and most of the rest live in shear terror of making a decision that might upset Feminist Doctrine that is based on anything she says is fact while anything he says needs an unbelievable amount of corroboration.
Canada has a Male Legal Apartheid, it applies a "reverse onus", against men while making anything "she says" without corroboration, a fact.
It is filling our jails with wrongfully convicted, it distorts the statistics that are pure fabrications to further enhance feminist objectives where men are just s-perm donors and support payers.
Elizabeth Sheehy is a dyed in the wool feminist whose articles assume that
all victims of domestic abuse a female and the perpetrators male. Her whole
thrust has been strengthening the Male Sharia Laws that deprive men of all legal
rights and give women a license to abuse and kill.
The results are staggering.
Across Canada, its routine for a man who is systematically abused for years, who stays so he can see his kids, because he knows if he calls 911, HE will be arrested, He will be charged, He will go to trial while Feminist law makes her a victim even when all the evidence says otherwise.
Its not uncommon for a woman to call 911, AFTER doing some serious bodily harm, "in self defense! _ and have HIM arrested. The cases can and do go to 4 or 5 days trials, at legal costs that routinely exceed $100,000
At the end of the day, if properly argued, SHE ends up paying for around half of his legal expenses of his criminal trial in family court but he at the end of the day, all and any substantial equity is gone.
Elizabeth Sheehy, is the Canadian equivalent of an Iranian female sharia law expert except the victims of injustice are male.
Its thanks to the work of the likes of Elizabeth Sheeny that Canadian men live lives of endless abuse and fear because the law only protects women and gives women a license to abuse with impunity and now, a license to murder even by plunging a butchers knife into a sleeping husband and putting a pillow over his face to smother his cries.
This decision is again a demonstration of how Father's and mens rights are being eroded to the point that its a crime to be born with testicles.
comments by anarchris
Most posts want us to focus on the context of this case as an isolated
incident but those of us who were raised to believe no reasonable man should
fear the women's movement insist that this decision be put in the context of a
woman's movement that makes the exception the norm.
Exception: It's ok to cut off a man's penis
Exception: It's ok to murder men in his sleep
Exception: It's ok to hire someone to kill men
Exception: It's ok to slap and crotch kick men
Exception: It's ok to discriminate against men
Exception: It's ok to propagate against men
Exception: It's ok to separate from men
Exception: It's ok to dominate men
Exception: It's ok to demonize men
Exception: It's ok to ridicule men
Exception: It's ok to falsely accuse men
Exception: It's ok to betray men
Exception: It's ok to double standard men
Just exactly where am i on equal footing with females? the media? the educational institutions? divorce court? supreme court? human rights commission? abortion? sex? amnesty int'l? the U.N.? the office? the social agencies? equally listened to? equally cared about? equal reciprocity? equal accountability? equal moral scrutiny? equal risk? equal benefit?
Now we can expect the Feminist Web Sites to advertise for hit men fully
screened to prevent entrapment by the police.
Let's get the story right.
The woman went to the police with her story of abuse. Her credibility, her evidence was so troubling and disturbing, they decided to engage in a sting operation.
Across Canada, "restraining orders" are issued not for protection, but for use as a weapon. Their primary purpose is to terrorize, to control and abuse for life.
Deadbeat judges like Ottawa Superior Court judge Allan Sheffield and Denis Power routinely issue restraining orders against men for violent mentally ill women. The restraining orders are issued on "she said" even though he may have provided a irrefutable evidence that there was no genuine need.
These restraining orders are for the purpose of abuse, they remove all legal rights so anytime she says he violated the conditions, He gets arrested. She becomes the judge.
It gets even worse. The "restraining orders" are "lifetime orders" designed to for ever, prevent a child, even when an adult, from ever knowing their father.
Again, women are encouraged to commit criminal offenses all based on the justification of being female.
Absolute Power creates the opportunity and the power to abuse.
Women have this absolute power more than men.
If a man calls 911 he gets arrested.
If a woman seeks sole custody, she gets it.
If a woman wants to exclude from children their father for ever, she gets it.
If a woman wants a restraining order, just to have more power, more ability to put him in jail on a phone call, she gets it.
Judges in Ottawa like Denis Power, Alan Sheffield, Desousa, Belishen, and of course fembox Aitken all issue restraining orders, without an end date, for ever.
These restraining orders are virtual deportation orders, as the alternative is quite often indefinite incarceration, for ever repeatedly, until death, without ever a trial, or even a motion, these same man hating judges 'strike pleadings" make "vexatious litigant orders" all in the name of giving a woman, absolute power to abuse.
The worst abusers in Canada can be male or female, however the very worst of the worst are JUDGES of the Ontario Superior Court and they can be found abundantly at 161 Elgin Street Ottawa, the headquarters of Ontario's War on Men.
More men than women live in relationships of endless abuse.
Physical violence is one thing, but most women employ other types of torture, straight out of CIA manuals and more likely, feminist literature that carefully describes how to be an abuser.
Most common, loud shouting, alienation from children, abuse of children to abuse the father of the children to make him do something.
Most 911 calls of abuse are fabricated. Most 911 calls alleging domestic violence are for the purpose of enabling a woman to get an instant divorce and , instant custody of the kids and have him burdened with impossible legal costs to prevent any litigation of the children's best interests.
Now, the NS CA gives women, the right to hire a hitman to kill off any husband they say, she says, that's right, she becomes the judge or what a man should die for.
Police make mistakes even when most of the time, any woman with the most
dubious complaint can get a man arrested in a flash.
The problem is, she is allowed a defense of murder that has NO corroboration and no evidence to support it.
And, only because the accused is female and its hubby murder is the defense allowed.
That's an insult to the principles of fundamental justice and the law on evidence as accepted in most parts of the world.
There are many MORE Canadian children who hold a pillow over their heads to
drown out the screaming in their ears of a mentally ill violent mother or a
mother with a severe personality disorder who blames all her ills on the one
closest to her, the father of "her" children.
Its these same women who make fake calls of being a victim and who murder their husbands one way or another by a fast or more often a slow death of being alienated from their own children that breeds a generation of children prone to dysfunction and being abusers or victims of abuse.
The solution, a Legal Presumption of Equal parenting after separation, reform of family court, equality in law for both men and women and an END to the underbelly feminist Judiciary or the corrupt judiciary whose names are common place in the legal community.