Without missing a beat, however, Crown prosecutor Peter Eccles snapped: “Close is not good enough, my lady. We’re not playing horseshoes and hand grenades.”
Like a bulldog, Eccles defended the sophisticated five-month sting operation that resulted in a Surrey couple being found guilty last year of terrorism for planting phoney explosives at the Legislature in Victoria supposedly primed to detonate during national day celebrations.
Converts to Islam and recovering heroin addicts living common-law in a basement suite on welfare, John Nuttall and Amanda Korody say in spite of the jury verdict that they should be freed because of police misconduct.
And Bruce raised several concerns about the RCMP trap, questioning the risk the couple actually posed and the response to Nuttall’s repeated requests for “spiritual guidance”.
Nuttall was a zealot, Eccles said, and if the Mounties wanted to manipulate him, it would have been easy.
“They could have just told Mr. Nuttall … ‘Well, it’s good you are on this line, Mr. Nuttall, because we need someone like you for a mission on the weekend. We’d like you take this device, put it here and blow up a bunch of people for Allah. Will you do that for us Mr. Nuttall?’ That’s not what happened.”
“It’s close to what happened,” Bruce replied deadpan.
As throughout the 18 months of proceedings, she and Eccles are squabbling to the last.
After his Hollywood-style closing presentation to the jury, she threatened to declare a mistrial, and this week she is scrutinizing his final submissions on the allegations of entrapment.
On the key issue, Eccles said the main undercover Mountie refrained from giving spiritual guidance to Nuttall.
He portrayed the officer, who cannot be named or described by court order, as “doing a pretty good imitation” of the late Muhammad Ali, “ducking, dodging and weaving. That’s his job. You’re not there to provide spiritual advice.”
Bruce was skeptical, noting the disguised cop told Nuttall “the imams are no better than you.”
“The problem is (the officer is) expressing a view and he is trying to convince Mr. Nuttall of that view because he doesn’t want him going about trying to get spiritual guidance,” Bruce said.
Eccles claimed the pretend RCMP extremists were only “mirroring” Nuttall’s own religious views. Bruce disagreed.
“It’s an entrapment issue — it’s also more than that,” she insisted. “Mr. Nuttall, the night before they are planning to plant the pressure-cooker bombs, he says he doesn’t know if there is a true religious justification for what he is doing. … (The undercover officer) does not spar like Muhammad Ali. He engages directly and tells Mr. Nuttall that he doesn’t need that kind of religious advice, that he just needs to look into his own heart and that these spiritual advisers are really not what they are made out to be.”
There was nothing to prevent Nuttall from going to a local Mosque for guidance, Eccles countered — except he had been ejected from them, and Islamic leaders considered him a dangerous jihadist.
“It has nothing to do with God and everything to do with hate,” he maintained.
Bruce shook her head, and bore in, saying that police eliminated a lot of obstacles to help Nuttall and Korody produce a plan, and provided the dummy improvised explosive devices.
“The police didn’t care what plan they came up with as long as they came up with a plan,” she said. “Why was it necessary to come up with a plan? Why wasn’t it okay to just keep on talking?”
“Because as the police indicate, they can’t babysit this individual indefinitely,” Eccles said.
“That’s an issue then,” Bruce said, “if what they have to do, if they feel they have to babysit for a long time, does that justify them going in there and getting them to commit to a plan and helping them carry out that plan the way they did? I mean, is that the dilemma that society has to face — that we have to live with what the police were doing and say: ‘Well, it was obviously going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort for them to wait around for Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Korody to come up with something to do on their own?”
Eccles said if RCMP had walked away, they would “have to cross their fingers and hope the people the police know exist, know to be out there, don’t (help). Mr. Nuttall was looking for those people.”
But Bruce pointed out that Nuttall hadn’t found any such person. “There is no evidence of any contact with a terrorist group or a known terrorist. … It really is speculation.”
Nuttall wasn’t looking for anyone, the judge added.
She quoted Nuttall telling the undercover officer: “Before I met you, I was just all talk, and now I have you.”
Eccles repeated that police feared Nuttall would contact someone who would help him commit terrorism.
“But they didn’t have any real evidence he was doing that,” Bruce said.
Nuttall was learning to become “a better terrorist,” Eccles emphasized, “he was trying to recruit.”
He quoted Nuttall back at the judge: “Islam gave us something to die for.”
The trial continues.