A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled there is evidence the RCMP “were engaged unlawful acts” during an undercover sting that led to a Surrey couple being arrested and later convicted of planning to bomb the Victoria parliament buildings on Canada Day 2013.
John Nuttall and Amanda Korody were found guilty earlier this year of one count each of conspiring to commit murder and possessing explosives for the benefit or on behalf of a terrorist organization. The verdicts were not entered, however, due to a defence application for a stay of proceedings.
Defence lawyers argue RCMP officers entrapped the couple during a months-long police sting in 2013 – dubbed Project Souvenir – that culminated in Nuttall and Korody’s arrest after inert pressure cooker bombs were planted outside the B.C. legislature.
“In this case there is evidence that the RCMP’s actions during Project Souvenir constituted the offence of facilitation of a terrorist activity,” said Justice Catherine Bruce in her Nov. 17 finding in response to a defence application for all legal opinions provided to the RCMP during the investigation.
During Nuttall and Korody’s criminal trial, which began in February, the jury saw and heard more than 100 hours of undercover video and audio evidence collected by the RCMP as undercover officers posing as Islamic extremist sympathizers befriended and worked with the couple, who had recently converted to the Muslim faith.
While the Crown argued Nuttall and Korody knew what they were doing and intended to kill or harm hundreds of innocent people, the defence contended the two, who were former heroin addicts living in a Surrey basement suite, were manipulated with money, clothing and spiritual guidance.
Bruce said this week the evidence supports a conclusion that police helped facilitate the couple’s ability to commit terrorist activity by providing them cash, tools and a hotel room to work from, among other things.
“In my view, the defence have raised at least a prima facie case that the RCMP officers involved in Project Souvenir were engaged in unlawful acts during the undercover operation,” said Bruce. “Further, it is apparent that they sought legal advice concerning this aspect of their investigation.”
She ordered that Crown disclose to defence lawyers the legal advice that was provided to the RCMP. (The Crown argued, unsuccessfully, the disclosure would violate solicitor-client privilege).
Bruce said a decision on whether to stay the charges can only be made after all the evidence at the entrapment hearing is heard. She said a finding of illegal acts alone may not be enough to warrant a stay of proceedings.
“However, evidence that the police ignored legal advice or acted contrary to legal advice and, conversely, evidence that the police acted in good faith based on legal advice is relevant to the seriousness of their misconduct, which in turn is relevant to whether a stay of proceedings should be ordered,” she said. “Illegal acts by the RCMP are also relevant to the entrapment claim.”
The judge gave the Crown until Friday to provide the legal opinions, after which she will decide how much of the legal advice provided to the RCMP should be disclosed to defence.