Nova Scotia

Andre Denny granted more freedoms from forensic hospital

A man who admitted to killing a prominent Halifax gay rights activist has been granted more leave privileges from the East Coast Forensic Hospital. But Andre Noel Denny’s new conditions aren’t as generous as he had hoped for and they have no direct connection to Raymond Taavel's death.

Man who killed Halifax gay rights activist Raymond Taavel has been held at forensic hospital for prior assault

Andre Noel Denny pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the April 2012 beating death of Raymond Taavel. (CBC)

A Nova Scotia man who admitted to killing a prominent Halifax gay rights activist has been granted more leave privileges from the secure forensic hospital where he's been held since 2012.

Andre Noel Denny has served his full sentence for manslaughter in the 2012 beating death of Raymond Taavel, but is still being held in the East Coast Forensic Hospital because he had been found not criminally responsible for a violent assault in his home community of Membertou, N.S., in 2011.

Denny's detention is subject to regular reviews by Nova Scotia's Criminal Code Review Board. His most recent hearing began Tuesday, and the board has granted him more privileges — although the new conditions aren't as generous as he had hoped.

Can spend time in community

The hospital team who has been working with Denny while he's been held in custody recommended that he be given a lot more freedom. They said he should be assessed as L6, a classification that would have allowed him to leave the hospital for up to six days at a time. That would allow him to live with his family in Cape Breton for extended periods.

Instead, the board settled on L5, which means means Denny will be able to spend his nights in one of two cottages on the hospital grounds but outside the secure facility. He will also still have the day passes that allow him to leave the facility entirely and spend time in the community.

Raymond Taavel, 50, posthumously received the QE II Diamond Jubilee Medal for community engagement and the advancement of LGBT rights in Canada. (The Canadian Press/Shambhala Sun-Marvin Moore)

Prior to the review, Denny was classified as L4, allowing him out for a few hours at a time. He was equipped with a cellphone that allowed hospital staff to check on him or for him to call for help if needed.

The board was told that Denny used the passes to do things like travel to a rink for skating, a nearby Tim Hortons and the Dartmouth Crossing shopping district.

Most of these unescorted trips away from the hospital have been uneventful, staff said. But there have been a couple of what were described as "blips." 

During a visit to Dartmouth Crossing last month, Denny said he encountered a cousin of Taavel's who told him she supported him. Crown prosecutor Karen Quigley told the board that Taavel was from Ontario and has no relatives in Nova Scotia.

Board chair Peter Lederman concluded they would never know the truth of the encounter Denny described.

Denny suggested someone else killed Taavel

The hospital team reported that in September of this year, Denny was saying that he was taking the fall for Taavel's death and that someone else actually killed him.

Quigley said that incident caused her concern. She had opposed Denny getting any more leave privileges.

"The Crown raised that as a concern because it represents an increase in his aggression and agitation," Quigley said after the decision was released.

In another incident, the medical team reported Denny as being frustrated with what he saw as slow progress in his case. He had threatened to take off for Mexico. But team members told the board they felt this was just bluster on Denny's part and not a genuine threat to flee.

Denny's family have also voiced frustration with the pace of his case. Lederman said the family may not fully appreciate what's going on.

Denny is being held at the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth, N.S., because he Was found not criminally responsible for a violent assault in 2011. (Robert Short/CBC)

"I note that the team itself has expressed doubts about the ability of the family to understand the review board system, which simply is not just another way of serving time," Lederman wrote in the board's decision.

"It may indeed be exceptional for the forensic team to investigate these aspects of family circumstances prior to the authorization of overnight access, but then again this is an exceptional case."

The psychiatrists said despite the blips, Denny has been making steady progress. He faithfully takes the various drugs necessary to keep his schizophrenia under control and has not abused drugs or alcohol since being committed to the hospital.

Drugs and alcohol have been identified as major risk factors for Denny. He had consumed both the night he fatally attacked Taavel on Gottingen Street in downtown Halifax, slamming the man into the pavement and beating him.