Review board grants Raymond Taavel's killer supervised community access privileges
The Criminal Code Review Board has decided Andre Denny's medical team can arrange supervised community outings if they see fit.
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The man responsible for killing popular Halifax activist Raymond Taavel has been granted the ability to go into the community with direct supervision in a decision from the Criminal Code Review Board, despite recent homophobic comments and “breakthrough” symptoms of his mental illness.
On Tuesday, four members of Criminal Code Review Board (CCRB) decided Andre Denny will remain in the East Coast Forensic Hospital (ECFH) but have regular Level 2 (L2) community access supervised by medical staff or an approved volunteer/family member before returning each night, which is a change from his L2 restricted status where the 38-year-old could only go out for supervised medical appointments.
“The board is mandated to strike a balance between the public interest and the interest of the offender to be rehabilitated. That balance is often a very complex task. We wouldn’t all agree on where the balance is struck,” Crown attorney Karen Quigley told reporters after the hearing.
“At the end of day, it is the board’s decision and their responsibility."
The CCRB made their decision after a hearing Tuesday where the ECFH medical team of psychiatrists and other experts outlined a report on Denny’s behaviour over the past six months, and asked for greater privileges up to unsupervised day and overnight passes (L4 and L6) so they could move towards reintegrating Denny with his family and community in Membertou, Cape Breton, which was supported by Denny’s attorney.
The ECFH team said Denny (a dual-status offender who was declared criminally responsible in Taavel’s case but not criminally responsible in two other cases, hence the ongoing ECFH care) has been taking his medication, not using recreational drugs or alcohol, had no “aggressive” incidents, and although there were some “breakthrough” symptoms from his schizophrenia like delusions or paranoia they settled out with staff intervention or on their own within a day.
A few concerning incidents were outlined by the team: in one, Denny said “I’m going to punch someone” after being hit with a basketball during a game but staff intervened and de-escalated the situation, and in another he called Revenue Canada to complain his GST return was lower than what he was entitled to, getting very belligerent and calling his social worker a “rat” before firing her from the team.
In May, the team said a fellow patient brushed against Denny and he told him not to do it again, adding “Don’t you know I killed a faggot,” but there have been no homophobic slurs since then.
Quigley had asked that the board keep Denny’s L2 access restricted and have a one-to-one ratio of medical staff to Denny when in the community. Quigley said Denny’s imminent violent risk assessment being in the high range, coupled with the outbursts she contended were indeed aggressive, led her to believe more privileges weren’t in the public interest “whatsoever.”
When Quigley asked the medical team whether there had been any programming around Denny’s homophobic comments, they said nothing specific had happened beyond group anger management. They added the issue is “of concern” and could be addressed in counselling if more occur, but reminded the board that Denny’s experience of sexual abuse could play into those comments.
Denny was sentenced to just under 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 until his statutory release date on July 5, while his warrant expires this coming February. He also has three years of probation left in that case.
Although Quigley said Denny had served his time related to Taavel’s case, the “tragic” incident did happen while Denny was still under the responsibility of the ECFH and Review Board, making it relevant to the hearing.
Taavel’s partner Darren Lewis sat directly across from Denny and his family at the hearing, and told the CCRB that while he’d like to see Denny back with his family “I don’t think I’ll be able to trust Andre will ever be OK,” and has trust issues with the process because Denny was allowed community access before, and violence occurred.
Lance Paul, Denny’s father, said in the hearing Membertou is the best place for Denny since his family, friends, and Mi’kmaq culture are close at hand and can best support him. Nodding at Lewis, Paul said he understood his suffering but “we’ve lost too” because with Denny’s years in custody his mother wasn’t allowed to hug him one last time before she passed away.
The review board will revisit Denny’s case in December, and although the supervised community access has been granted, the medical team said they’d need to see that Denny’s imminent risk assessment came down before they would take that step.