An RCMP sting caught Nicole Doucet (Ryan) trying to hire a hitman to kill her ex-husband. It was supposed to be an open-and-shut case. It wasn’t. She was acquitted on the basis of duress in a context of abuse. But her ordeal did not end there.
No Legal Way Out details the judicial process, media coverage, and legal implications of R v Ryan, a landmark case in Canadian law for all the wrong reasons. Appealed up to the Supreme Court of Canada, Doucet’s acquittal was overturned, even though the court accepted that she had been abused. However, the court did issue a stay of proceedings so she could not be tried again. The court also castigated the RCMP for their actions, leading to an investigation that ultimately exonerated the force and garnered substantial media attention, much of it promoting stereotypes about abused women. The decision has had an enormously negative impact on public perceptions of domestic violence.
A quarter-century after R v Lavallee – which expanded the parameters of self-defence to include the experiences of abused women – R v Ryan limited the legal options for women seeking to escape intimate partner terrorism. No Legal Way Out is an unabashedly feminist analysis that explains why the court, the police, and the media let down all women trapped by abuse.
This book is essential reading for feminist and other legal scholars, scholars in political science and women’s studies, and activists working with victims of intimate partner violence. It will also be of interest to many in the wider public.
Nadia Verrelli and Lori Chambers provide readers with a marvellously compelling version of a case with great public importance. This is an important and impressive work.
The R v Ryan case is extremely novel in legal terms, at all levels of court, and the paucity of study about it makes No Legal Way Out particularly important.
Nadia Verrelli is an associate professor of political science at Laurentian University. She is the author of numerous articles and book chapters and editor of The Role of the Policy Advisor: An Inside Look, Canada: The State of the Federation, 2011 – The Changing Federal Environment: Rebalancing Roles? and The Democratic Dilemma: Reforming Canada’s Supreme Court. Lori Chambers is a professor of gender and women’s studies at Lakehead University. She is the author of Married Women and Property Law in Victorian Ontario and Misconceptions: Unmarried Motherhood and the Ontario Children of Unmarried Parents Act, 1921–1969, both winners of the Alison Prentice Award in Ontario women’s history. She is also the author of A Legal History of Adoption in Ontario, 1921–2015.
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