Canada Day bomb plot couple freed after judge rules police entrapped them

In a landmark decision, supreme court justice throws out guilty verdict for John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, calling the plot a police-manufactured crime

A Canadian couple found guilty of planting homemade bombs outside a government building will walk free after a court in British Columbia ruled the pair was entrapped by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) into carrying out a police-manufactured crime.

John Nuttall, 41, and Amanda Korody, 33, were found guilty of terror charges last year after they planted inert pressure cooker bombs on the steps of British Columbias provincial legislature in 2013, ahead of Canada Day celebrations that drew thousands of revellers to the area.

The verdict was thrown out on Friday, after BC supreme court justice Catherine Bruce said the RCMP had manipulated the two converts to Islam into carrying out the plot.

This was a clear case of police-manufactured crime, Bruce wrote in her ruling. The world has enough terrorists. We do not need the police to create more out of marginalized people.

The judge pointed to the couples mental capacity to back the assertion that the crime had been instigated by police.

The defendants also demonstrated that they were not very intelligent, gullible and quite naive and child-like, she said of Nuttall and Korody, who were dependent on social assistance to get by as they struggled to overcome emotional and addiction issues.

The couple posed no imminent threat, she said. To say they were unsophisticated is generous. Both had been facing a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The judge sided with defences argument that the couple had been entrapped during a five-month undercover police operation involving some 240 police officers.

Without the police it would have been impossible for the defendants to carry out the pressure-cooker plan The police decided they had to aggressively engineer and plan for Nuttall and Korody and make them think it was their own, said Bruce. The defendants were the foot soldiers but the undercover officer was the leader of the group.

Amanda Korody, John Nuttall and Maureen Smith, left, Johns mother, leave the law courts after a supreme court judge ordered their release. Photograph: Ben Nelms/Reuters

The judge noted that while the couple does adhere to extremist views that advocate violence to send political messages, police overstepped the bounds of their authority in their interactions with the pair.

The police engaged in a multifaceted and systematic manipulation of the defendants to induce them into committing a terrorist offence, Bruce said.

The court heard that undercover agents offered the pair gifts, ranging from cellphones to groceries, and steered their attention away from more fanciful ideas, such as the hijacking of a navy submarine and construction of short-range missiles.

The landmark ruling is believed to be the first time that entrapment has been successfully argued in a terrorism case, raising questions over the limits of police actions as law enforcement agencies around the world struggle to contend with the threat of terrorism.

[Police] were clearly overzealous and acted on the assumption that there were no limits to what was acceptable when investigating terrorism, the judge said. Within their ranks there were warnings given and ignored.

Earlier this year crown lawyer Peter Eccles defended the police operation, pointing to the underlying issue of public safety.

This was an innovative and effective undercover investigation in which the RCMP provided two suspects the opportunity to execute their jihad, to be the terrorists they wanted to be, while protecting the public by ensuring their plan did not succeed, he told the court.

The RCMP responded to the verdict on Friday, saying it respects the judicial decision. The detection, disruption and deterrence of national security-related threats in Canada is a priority for the RCMP and its partner agencies. The RCMP and its partners remain committed to the safety and protection of the public, the organisation said in a statement.

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