POLITICS

Crown reviewing charges against man accused in Halifax chemicals case

02/05/2015 04:00 EST | Updated 04/06/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - Charges against a man who police allege owned volatile chemicals that led to evacuation orders in Halifax and Ottawa are being reviewed by prosecutors to make sure there is a realistic prospect of a conviction, a Crown attorney said Thursday.

But Crown prosecutor Terri Lipton said she still believes the case against Christopher Phillips should be heard by a court.

"This is not clear-cut," she said outside provincial court after Phillips made a brief appearance.

"We're dealing with a chemical that he is lawfully allowed to have. Do we have a triable issue? Yes, very much, I think so. Are we continuing to look at the charge and do research on that? Absolutely, particularly when we have somebody in custody."

Phillips, 42, was arrested in an east-end Ottawa hotel on Jan. 21 after the building was evacuated. He was later charged in Halifax with uttering threats and possession of a weapon — the chemical osmium tetroxide — for a dangerous purpose.

Police have said a cottage and a shed that Phillips owned in the tiny coastal community of Grand Desert, N.S., was filled with chemicals in various states of degradation.

Lipton said prosecutors are still receiving lists of the substances inside the cottage, which caused the area around it to be evacuated for five days. A shorter evacuation order was also ordered around a home in the Halifax suburb of Cole Harbour.

The alleged threat was made to a third party in an email that mentioned osmium tetroxide, she added.

Phillips, who worked as an opthamologist in the United States prior to moving to Halifax about five years ago, elected on Thursday to be tried by judge and jury.

He was remanded after defence lawyer Mike Taylor said he couldn't make a bail application for his client because a place couldn't be found for him to stay.

"We have had a few options that were potentially open to us. Unfortunately, people are afraid of simply getting involved because of the publicity concerning this," Taylor said outside court, adding that Phillips can still apply for bail with two days' notice.

The judge scheduled a one-day preliminary hearing for May 26 but urged the Crown and defence to try to find an earlier date.

Outside court, Lipton also said the prosecution now accepts that Phillips's trip to Ottawa was "completely unrelated" to any of the allegations about chemicals and is not part of the Crown's charges.

The RCMP have said the chemicals posed an extreme fire risk to the area due to their volatility, but Taylor said he believes the authorities overreacted to the potential threat based on information he received.

The accusation that Phillips threatened police was based on an email he sent to a friend that was misconstrued and Phillips believes he had the chemicals for legitimate reasons, Taylor said after the court hearing.

follow @mtuttoncporg on Twitter.