'Time bomb situation:' Raymond Taavel's partner, family concerned Andre Denny could get community access
A hearing before the Criminal Code Review Board Tuesday will determine what, if any, privileges Andre Denny will have on parole.
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Just over a year after being sentenced for manslaughter in the death of popular Halifax activist Raymond Taavel, a hearing could lead to community access for Andre Denny - a move that has Taavel’s family concerned someone else will “inevitably” be hurt.
On Tuesday, the Criminal Code Review Board (CCRB) will hear from East Coast Forensic Hospital (ECFH) experts petitioning for Denny’s community privileges, although it remains to be seen what those could look like, said Taavel’s partner Darren Lewis.
Lewis said Crown attorney Karen Quigley, who will attend the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility hearing to argue on behalf of the Public Prosecution Service, recently told him of the event and that the Eskasoni man had been granted parole on July 5.
“I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening,” Lewis said in an interview.
“After what’s happened, in an escalating form of violence every time he’s let out, I just don’t trust that he’s ever going to be OK.”
Denny was sentenced to eight years incarceration on March 24, 2016, in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, nearly four years after he failed to return to the ECFH on April 16 on a one-hour unescorted pass and killed Taavel later that night outside Menz Bar on Gottingen Street.
With about six years credit for time served, Denny served roughly another 15 months and now has three years of probation. He pled guilty in November, 2015.
With his parole granted, Lewis said he’s been told that Denny (who has schizophrenia and remains at the ECFH related to another crime where he was declared not criminally responsible) is no longer under Correctional Service Canada.
In sentencing, Judge Peter Rosinksi said Denny remains a “significant” threat to public safety, and suggested Denny remain at the ECFH during probation where he can be in a secure place and continue with treatment and therapy.
Lewis said he understands the ECFH doctors are mandated to reintegrate offenders with mental illness whenever possible, but the "dilemma" is Denny’s history of not taking his medication, becoming violent, and taking drugs and alcohol which aggravates his psychosis - all of which occurred when Taavel was killed.
“Every time that he’s been let out before, he goes off his meds … and the next thing you know we’re in a time bomb situation again,” Lewis said, adding that Taavel’s family in Ontario are “beside themselves” about the possibility of Denny going into public.
While all of those factors will be weighed, Lewis said he feels people should know what happens in situations like Denny’s where a dual-status offender (being found criminally and not criminally responsible in different cases) comes back into provincial care - and that Review Board hearings often going unnoticed.
The arguments will likely involve the importance of Denny’s family, and how being with familiar people could help him, Lewis said, but he’d prefer that any community access be with a medical escort for limited periods of time.
“He is ill, I get that, but can this person actually be rehabilitated? Is it even possible?” Lewis said. "Inevitably, sooner or later, he’s done something."
Taavel may be gone and there’s nothing to bring him back, Lewis said, but himself and Taavel’s family want to ensure Denny “doesn’t hurt someone else.”