'Relieved:' No increased community access for killer of Raymond Taavel
Andre Denny will continue to have directly supervised access to the community, which will include staff or other approved people.
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The partner of the late Halifax activist Raymond Taavel says he’s “relieved” to see the man responsible for Taavel’s death has not had his community access privileges increased by the Criminal Code Review Board.
At Denny’s annual review hearing Tuesday, four members of Criminal Code Review Board (CCRB) decided Andre Denny will continue living in the East Coast Forensic Hospital (ECFH) and maintain Level 2 (L2) community access privileges - which they granted five months ago at a hearing in July.
L2 means a patient can have access to the community while directly supervised by medical staff or an approved person/family member.
“I’m relieved. I feel that they have made the right decision,” Darren Lewis, Taavel’s partner, said after the hearing at ECFH.
In the hearing, a medical team of psychiatrists and other experts outlined Denny’s behaviour over the past few months, and asked for greater community privileges up to a ceiling of Level 4 (L4). That allows for indirectly supervised community access, where passes may be assigned up to a maximum of 14 hours per day. It also accumulates those privileges in Level 3 (L3) which allows for unsupervised access to the hospital grounds.
Since the last hearing in July, Denny (a dual-status offender who was declared criminally responsible in Taavel’s case but not criminally responsible in two previous cases, hence the ongoing ECFH care) has not been using recreational drugs or alcohol, and a new anti-psychosis medication he started in September helped him become “much calmer” and quieter, the team said, with fewer breakout symptoms of his schizophrenia.
While the team said Denny had not been physically aggressive in this period, upon further board questioning doctors confirmed Denny had became upset and used strong language on the phone against a family member whom Denny referred to as a “bad person” and drug dealer in August - to the point where the man called the hospital out of concern for his safety.
Since September, the team said those calls stopped and Denny has been going on staff-supervised community group outings or visits with family that have all gone well, and his imminent risk rating is consistently at the low end although his base risk factor will likely always remain high.
The medical team said L4 was needed to give them the flexibility to have Denny’s family, friends, or volunteers like other spiritual or cultural Indigenous leaders help reintegrate the Mi’kmaq man into community events, which was supported by Denny’s lawyer.
However, Crown attorney Karen Quigley asked the board to maintain a L2 status for Denny, as she said there is “ample” evidence to suggest Denny remains a risk to public safety. She added that Denny’s improvement over less than two months was too little time to be reliable, and his family or others could still supervise as long as they follow the “approved person guidelines” in L2 that outlines multiple steps to ensure they’re capable.
Quigley said she was pleased with the board’s decision, and looking ahead the Crown would have to see an “uneventful history” with Denny in the hospital and community for a considerable period of time before they’d agree a higher level of privileges was appropriate.
Lewis added he was especially relieved L4 wasn’t granted at this point because L3 would have then been an option -and Denny going AWOL while on an unsupervised pass in 2012 was “exactly how this all started” and led to Taavel being killed.
“I am relieved they did not go in that direction, definitely,” he said.