Nova Scotia

Crown seeks long prison term for Raymond Taavel's killer

Crown and defence lawyers agree on preliminary issues in sentencing of Andre Denny, a mentally ill man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of prominent gay rights activist Raymond Taavel.

Andre Noel Denny beat Halifax resident to death in 2012 while on leave from forensic hospital

Andre Noel Denny suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, according to court documents. (CBC)

The sentencing of a mentally ill man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of prominent gay rights activist Raymond Taavel has moved a step closer.

Andre Noel Denny was originally charged with second-degree murder in death of the 49-year-old man in April of 2012, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge in November.

On Monday, Crown and defence lawyers agreed Denny should receive a one-and-half credit for time he's spent in custody since his arrest. The credit works out to about six years.

The Crown indicated in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax it wants Denny to serve a "significant" amount of additional time in prison on top of the six years.

Denny, a patient previously deemed not criminally responsible for other crimes, was issued a one-hour unescorted pass from the East Coast Forensic Hospital in 2012, but didn't return.

While authorities were searching for Denny, he beat Taavel to death outside a Halifax bar, Menz Bar.

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.

Surveillance video from bar

According to the agreed statement of facts, Denny and two other residents left the forensic hospital without permission on April 16, 2012. That evening, the three consumed alcohol and crack cocaine, court heard. Denny then separated from his friends and made his way to Menz Bar.

The defence told court it wants to play surveillance video from inside Menz Bar at Denny's sentencing, which is now set for Feb. 22.

The Crown intends to introduce three victim impact statements; two from members of Taavel's family and one from the larger community. That last statement is allowed under Ottawa's new Victims Bill of Rights, which was introduced by the previous Conservative government.

The Crown told court the statement from the community will include a YouTube video recounting Taavel's life. The defence questions whether showing the video is appropriate. The matter will be argued at sentencing.

Prosecutor James Giacomantonio said if the Crown is successful at getting Denny sentenced to additional time, he will serve it in prison, then be transferred back to the forensic hospital.

"Once we're done with him, once his manslaughter sentence is done, he'll still be under the jurisdiction of the review board," Giacomantonio said outside court.

"So he'll still be held [not criminally responsible] on the other stuff."

The Nova Scotia government issued an apology to Taavel's family last month.

With files from the Canadian Press