06/14/2016 04:49 EDT | Updated 06/15/2017 01:12 EDT

Undercover terrorism sting was only means to investigate B.C. couple: lawyer

VANCOUVER — Mounties in charge of an undercover sting on a British Columbia couple accused of being terrorist sympathizers can't be faulted for bringing in a "closer" to wrap up the controversial operation, says a Crown lawyer.

Peter Eccles told B.C. Supreme Court on Monday that police couldn't draw out their investigation indefinitely and needed to determine whether John Nuttall and Amanda Korody were serious about following through with any of their various proposals for jihad, or holy war.

"So long as (the closer) doesn't induce, incite or entrap, you can't fault the police for wanting to shut this thing down," Eccles said.

"(The police) can't walk away. Not from these two. Not with what they know. So they have to find some way to arrest or walk."

Nuttall and Korody were found guilty of planting what they believed were pressure-cooker bombs at the B.C. legislature on July 1, 2013, with the intention to commit mass murder during Canada Day festivities. Their verdicts were put on hold while lawyers argue in a second hearing whether police manipulated the couple.

An elaborate undercover operation involving more than 240 officers was the only way for officers to protect the public, Eccles told the court.

Nuttall's group of friends and associates was secluded and small, making it difficult for RCMP find a confidential informant, he said.

The Mounties steered Nuttall and Korody toward planting bombs at the provincial legislature because it was a safer and more manageable scenario than other riskier ideas the pair had floated, Eccles added.

Those ideas included hijacking a navy submarine, firing rockets at Seattle and infiltrating a synagogue to slaughter Jewish children.

Defence lawyers have said police exploited the couple's vulnerabilities as isolated former drug addicts living on welfare to draw them into what was portrayed as a shadowy terrorist organization.

But the operation was not entrapment, Eccles said.

"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."

Eccles contradicted a defence argument that Nuttall's actions were motivated by fear of his new friend, an undercover officer Nuttall believed was a member of the radical Islamic group al-Qaida.

"You don't call up the devil and complain when he won't behave," he said.

"Mr. Nuttall chose who he wanted to do his jihad with. He chose who he wanted to seek his advice from."

Eccles clashed on several occasions Monday with Justice Catherine Bruce, including when he argued that the jury had effectively already decided on the matter of entrapment following criminal proceedings, which wrapped up last June.

"What the jury found on the path to conviction must be respected," Eccles said.

"I hear your argument," the judge said. "But I suggest you strongly press on your other argument."

Eccles quoted earlier testimony from the principal undercover officer that the sting aimed to move Nuttall away from putting the public at risk and not toward any particular end scenario.

"To say that the police didn't want to take them to the end result I think is a little bit cheeky considering what they actually did to get them to do what they did," Bruce said.

"That's where we 100 per cent disagree," said Eccles. "(Nuttall and Korody) did what they wanted to do."

Closing arguments are scheduled to continue until the end of the week.

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