NEWS

Christopher Phillips, Nova Scotia Man In Chemical Possession Case, In Court

01/29/2015 06:14 EST | Updated 03/31/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - A man accused of possessing dangerous chemicals that resulted in evacuations in Halifax and Ottawa believes he possessed them for legitimate reasons and they weren't intended for criminal purposes, his lawyer said Thursday.

Defence lawyer Mike Taylor said he will seek bail for Christopher Burton Phillips, who faces charges of uttering threats and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, when his case returns to court next week.

Taylor said he recognizes police may have thought they were protecting public safety when they evacuated two Halifax communities and a Ottawa hotel where Phillips, 42, was arrested. But Taylor said the response may prove to have been an overreaction.

"I wouldn't be surprised if at the end of the day, once they've had a chance to determine a full shopping list of what was there and have a look at what the substances were and what they were potentially used for, that they'll be satisfied there was no danger," Taylor said outside provincial court.

During his brief court appearance Thursday, Phillips, a former U.S. citizen, sat quietly with his head bowed as the case was adjourned until next Thursday.

Police have alleged in a sworn information that Phillips threatened a police officer and possessed osmium tetroxide, a toxic chemical, for the purpose of committing an offence.

Taylor said the accusation that Phillips made a threat against police was based on an email that he sent to a friend that made indirect reference to police.

"Quite frankly, I think it's been misconstrued. ... I find a hard time finding a threat in that myself," he said, though he didn't elaborate on the content of the message.

Crown prosecutor Terri Lipton said Phillips was allowed to have up to 224 kilograms of osmium tetroxide.

"He didn't have anywhere near that," Lipton said outside court.

During the proceedings, Lipton said the Crown has dropped a plan to seek a psychiatric assessment for Phillips to determine his fitness to stand trial. But the prosecution remains opposed to bail at this time, Lipton added, though she said that could change after the defence produces a plan for his release.

The RCMP have alleged that dozens of different chemicals were found in various states of degradation stacked floor to ceiling inside a cottage and shed, posing an "extreme fire risk" to the area due to their volatility.

Last week, a Crown prosecutor said there was "innuendo" in the police file that Phillips was looking at extracting metals from substances.

That assessment has "some credibility," Taylor said Thursday, adding that it can be a legal activity.

Asked why Phillips drove from the Halifax area where the chemicals were found to Ottawa, Taylor said there was a "simple explanation" for that.

"It has nothing to do with weapons or anything like that," Taylor said. "It will eventually come out."

Follow @mtuttoncporg on Twitter.

Also on HuffPost

Newspaper Coverage Of Ottawa Shooting