B.C.’s Court of Appeal has handed the RCMP a slap in the face, upholding a lower court ruling that police entrapped two drug-addicted Surrey converts to Islam into attempting to bomb the 2013 Canada Day celebrations on Victoria’s legislature grounds.
The court called the entrapment of Amanda Korody and John Nuttall a “travesty of justice.”
“The misconduct of police in this case far outweighed their violations of the concepts of fairness and justice,” said he ruling written by Justice Elizabeth Bennett, who also called on Parliament to revisit incomprehensible terrorism laws.
Nuttall and Korody were found guilty in 2015 on two terrorism-related charges while a conspiracy count was stayed in what the RCMP alleged was an al-Qaida-inspired plot using pressure-cooker bombs to target the festivities.
Their convictions were became acquittals in July 2016 after the judge found RCMP had entrapped the pair.
The Crown appealed, with a panel of three judges today (December 19) overturning the acquittals in favour of stays of proceedings.
The couple had partially modelled their bombs on those used in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
Bennett said police were right to start an investigation but went too far in pushing the couple to create a bombing plan.
She called police actions an abuse of process.
“Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody had neither the means nor the ability to carry out any of the plans without substantial aid from police,” Bennett said.
The appeal court also rejected the lower court decision that Nuttall and Korody had continued with the plot out of fear they would be killed.
The ruling, written by Bennett, said, “the evidence is clear that they did not place the bombs because they feared for their lives; they placed the bombs because they wanted to do violent jihad.”
The court agreed with the trial judge’s finding that the RCMP “dictated the time and place” of the plan to use nail-filled pressure cookers at the celebrations.
The court dismissed claims police facilitated the bombing attempt. It also noted the pair had considered other plans such as using rockets or hijacking a nuclear submarine.
However, the convictions were overturned in July 2016 when a judge declared the couple victims of police entrapment.
“The world has enough terrorists; we do not need the police to create more,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce said in releasing the couple.
Bruce slammed the national force’s five-month sting operation where 240 officers billed almost $900,000 in overtime. She said police violated the criminal code tarnished fundamental beliefs Canadians hold about fairness and human dignity.
Nuttall’s lawyer, Marilyn Sandford, called the ruling’s language “very strong.”
She said it signals to the RCMP that Canada has no tolerance for sting operations like those popular in the United States.
For Nuttall and Korody, Sandford called the decision, “the end of a lot of stress and a very long road.”
Sandford agreed the terrorism laws need revising. “The provisions are unnecessarily difficult to figure out even for lawyers let alone juries,” she said.
The five-month-long operation, dubbed Project Souvenir, involved more than 240 officers, who billed $900,000 in overtime alone, and threatened ”fundamental beliefs our society holds about human dignity and fairness,” Bruce found.
The Crown has 60 days to appeal the ruling.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Tania Vaughan said the force is aware of the judgment.
"The RCMP respects the judicial process and the judgment determined by the court," she said.