OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is being urged to ensure the so-called battered woman's defence doesn't include the hiring of a hit man to kill an abusive spouse.

The high court is hearing the emotionally charged case of a Nova Scotia woman acquitted of counselling to commit murder after she tried to hire an undercover RCMP officer to kill her husband in 2008.

Nova Scotia prosecutor William Delaney is arguing that Nicole Ryan's particular circumstances don't entitle her to the Criminal Code's defences of duress and self-defence.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal upheld her acquittal in 2010, concluding that Ryan's 15-year marriage amounted to a "reign of terror."

Delaney argues that Ryan was not entitled to the legal defence of duress because she was not in imminent danger: she had moved in with relatives and was in the process of getting a divorce.

Delaney is being grilled by the court's nine justices about whether the facts of Ryan's case could be adapted to fit the Criminal Code definition of self-defence, under which the battered woman's defence falls.