Nova Scotia

Crown challenges decision to grant more freedom to killer of gay rights activist

Andre Noel Denny, who was convicted of manslaughter in the death of gay rights activist Raymond Taavel, has been held at a forensic hospital in Dartmouth, N.S. The Crown is appealing a review board's decision to grant him more freedom.

Andre Denny being held at Dartmouth, N.S., forensic hospital

Andre Denny was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Raymond Taavel. He is currently being held at the East Coast Forensic Hospital. (CBC)

Nova Scotia prosecutors are challenging a decision to grant more freedom to convicted killer Andre Noel Denny, who's being held at the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth, N.S.

Denny was declared not criminally responsible for a violent attack on a young woman in June 2011. That finding led to him being held at the high-security forensic hospital where his status is subject to periodic reviews.

He slipped away from the hospital in April 2012 and killed prominent gay rights activist Raymond Taavel. Denny pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received an eight-year sentence, which has since expired.

Denny's continued detention at the hospital is under the control of Nova Scotia's Criminal Code Review Board. Last December, it increased Denny's level of freedom to L5, which permits him to spend nights unaccompanied in bungalows that are on the hospital property but are not secure.

On Tuesday, Crown prosecutor Jim Gumpert argued in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal that the review board's decision was wrong and fails to take into account the risk Denny poses to the community should he fail to abide by release conditions.

Those conditions include that he continue to take anti-psychotic medication, which has managed to control his paranoid schizophrenia. Gumpert said there is no evidence in the board's decision that members considered ongoing risk factors.

Raymond Taavel, 49, died after a brutal beating outside Menz Bar on Halifax's Gottingen Street on April 17, 2012. (The Canadian Press/Shambhala Sun-Marvin Moore)

He mentioned aggressive statements Denny made in March of last year. In one, Denny told hospital staff he felt like putting his hands around someone's throat and slamming them into a wall. In another incident, Denny told staff he believed a friend had been given fentanyl and if he found out who was responsible, he'd kill them.

Hospital staff described those comments by Denny as "venting" and said he has become a model patient.

Nova Scotia Legal Aid lawyer Lee Seshagiri urged the three-judge appeal panel to look at Denny's case as a matter of "before" and "after."

Sheshagiri said in 2012, when he was first admitted to the hospital, Denny was paranoid, agitated and argumentative. He claimed that he was the son of royalty who possessed great wealth and that he could hear 13 disciples in his ear. At the time, Denny was abusing both drugs and alcohol.

Sheshagiri said the judges should contrast that behaviour with what the review board and hospital staff have seen in his latest assessments.

The lawyer said Denny has not abused either drugs or alcohol in the seven years since his attack on Taavel. Doctors told the board they also see no evidence of the sort of delusions which typified his behaviour when he was first admitted.

The court has reserved its decision with no indication on when a ruling might be coming.