The Kingston Whig-Standard - Brockville woman calls for tougher knife laws
The Kingston Whig-Standard - Brockville woman calls for tougher knife laws

Brockville woman calls for tougher knife laws

By Ian Elliot
Local News - Tuesday, March 29, 2005 @ 07:00

The mother of a young man stabbed to death in an Ottawa bar seven years ago says her heart goes out to the family of Justin Schwieg.

And Paulette Moffitt, whose 23-year-old son Andy was murdered two days before Christmas in 1998 in an unprovoked attack similar to the Schwieg case, is pushing for a private member's bill that would impose harsher sentences on people who use knives to injure and kill.

"Our hearts go out to the family in Kingston," Moffitt said yesterday from her Brockville home.

"We know what they will be going through in the days and weeks and months to come."

Moffitt's son was a computer engineering student at the University of Ottawa who worked part time at Nortel. He was stabbed to death on Dec. 23, 1998, while trying to break up a confrontation between a drug dealer and other men at a bar frequented by university students.

His killer, Henry Danninger, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in 2003 and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Danninger is serving his time at Bath Institution west of Kingston and is already eligible for parole, a fact that enrages Moffitt's family. Their anger has led them to work with Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown on a crusade for stronger laws on crimes involving knives.

"It's crazy out there and we need tougher laws to prevent this sort of thing from happening," Paulette Moffitt said.

"A knife is a tool of death. If it is hidden and it is pulled out so easily, we need a minimum sentence to make people think twice about doing it."

Brown has authored a private member's bill that, among other things, would require minimum sentences for crimes involving knives similar.

He also wants to see a standard system for granting presentence custody credits. Normally one day served awaiting trial cuts two days off a sentence, but some judges give three or even four days' credit for each day of pretrial custody.

Manslaughter or attempted manslaughter with a knife should carry a minimum four-year sentence, Brown said yesterday.

The bill is important because it would impose penalties on killers who plead to the lesser sentence of manslaughter instead of being tried for murder. Murder carries an automatic life sentence, although people convicted of second-degree murder become eligible for parole earlier than those convicted of first-degree murder.

The man accused in Schwieg’s death, Bruce Keno McKenzie, 26, of Brampton, is charged with second-degree murder.

Brown's bill is being studied by the parliamentary legal department. He and the Moffitt family hope the publicity and outrage surrounding Schwieg's killing will bring the bill to the floor of the House of Commons for debate sooner.

"The death of Justin Schwieg was senseless," Brown said in an interview. "It might have been prevented if there were mandatory minimum sentences for crimes committed with knives."

Each weekend, Brown said, knives are used to wound and kill people. The incidents usually occur in larger cities, but he said the scourge is spreading to smaller places.

"This is becoming an epidemic," he said. "You open the Toronto papers after a weekend and you're going to find the same thing over and over.

"If there were greater consequences for it, people might think twice before popping a knife in their pocket as they're leaving the house."

For a private member's bill to succeed, it needs support across party lines. Brown, a Conservative MP, and Moffitt said if any issue is nonpartisan, it's this one.

"It's something all members of Parliament can support," said Moffitt, whose family continues to monitor Danninger’s sentence and plans to appear at his parole hearing, scheduled for next month.

"I can't see anyone disagreeing with this."

   Letter to the Media
   Bill C-393
   Our Angel
   Thank You
   Mike's Speech
   Memorial Speech
   Andy's Story
   Our Brother