Andre Noel Denny, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of prominent gay rights activist Raymond Taavel, was sentenced Thursday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court to eight years. 

But after spending nearly four years in custody following his arrest, and receiving one-and-half times credit for it, Denny has a little under two years left to serve.

"The risk for further violence by Mr. Denny is significant," Justice Peter Rosinksi said in his decision. "Denny remains a significant threat to public safety."

Rosinksi recommended that Denny serve his time in custody at the East Coast Forensic Hospital. The term of incarceration will be followed by three years of probation, also to be served in the hospital.

Rosinski also placed conditions on Denny that prohibit him from having weapons and alcohol. He must attend counselling.

Taavel, 49, died after a brutal beating outside Menz Bar on Halifax's Gottingen Street on April 17, 2012. Denny, a 36-year-old Membertou man, was originally accused of second-degree murder but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge in November.

'I'm sick of you,' said Denny to translator 

Thursday's sentencing was twice delayed following outbursts from Denny. At one point, as Rosinksi read his decision, Denny suddenly pushed his Mi'kmaq translator, who fell into a railing.

"I'm sick of you," Denny yelled. "I want to tell you what the hell is going on."

Court was recessed as Denny was escorted from the room, swearing. The hearing resumed about 20 minutes later.

Shortly after 11 a.m., Denny interrupted proceedings again when he suddenly stood up and said, "Excuse me your honour, I'm not sure if I did this murder. I was confused."

Rosinski then said, "I've been reading for a long time. I think it'd be a good time to take a break," as Denny talked loudly over him.

Court then resumed.

The CBC's Brett Ruskin live blogged the proceedings.

Crown and defence lawyers agreed in January that Denny should receive a one-and-half times credit for the time he has spent in custody since his arrest. The credit works out to about six years.

Past history of violence

​In court documents, Denny is described as having paranoid schizophrenia. He is also described as being grossly psychotic with a history of aggressive impulsivity and unpredictability. He has been found not criminally responsible for other crimes in the past. 

NS Assault Death 20120417

Raymond Taavel was a prominent gay rights activist in Halifax. (The Canadian Press/Shambhala Sun-Marvin Moore)

According to the agreed statement of facts, Denny — who had been given a one-hour pass to go to the edge of the East Coast Forensic Hospital property to smoke a cigarette — failed to return to the hospital as scheduled on April 16, 2012.

That evening, he and two others consumed alcohol and crack cocaine. Denny then separated from his friends and made his way to Menz Bar.

Denny fought with two men that night, one of whom was Taavel. Denny punched Taavel twice in the head knocking him down. Once Taavel was on the ground, Denny kicked him in the head and slammed his head repeatedly into the pavement, court heard. A passing motorist called 911. Once police arrived, a canine unit found Denny in a nearby alley.

During a sentencing hearing in February, Denny apologized to Taavel's family and friends.

"I am very remorseful," he said at the time. "I am sorry to the Taavel family for what I have caused them, pain and suffering."

His lawyer recommended a sentence of five to six years and a weapons ban of 10 years.

Family, partner suing for negligence

The Crown argued Denny's crime was close to murder and asked for a sentence of between seven to 10 years and a lifetime weapons ban.

Taavel's family and common-law partner Darren Lewis have launched a civil lawsuit against Denny, the Capital District Health Authority and the province, alleging negligence.

In December, Nova Scotia's Health Minister, Leo Glavine, issued a formal apology to the Taavel family for the lapses which contributed to Taavel's death.

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story stated Andre Denny left the East Coast Forensic Hospital without permission the night Raymond Taavel was killed. This story has been clarified to reflect that Denny had a one-hour pass to leave the property but did not have permission to leave for the night.
    Mar 29, 2016 3:57 PM AT