Ottawa Sun - Give justice system a sharper edge
Ottawa Sun - Give justice system a sharper edge

April 18, 2008

Give justice system a sharper edge


If any good can come from the senseless 1998 murder of University of Ottawa engineering student Andy Moffitt -- posthumously awarded the Governor General's Award for Bravery -- it can begin with the House of Commons passing a private member's bill seeking tougher penalties for knife crimes.

To do otherwise would be akin to coldly stabbing Andy Moffitt through the heart again, and showing an equally cold apathy to the next.

Three MPs -- including Toronto Liberal Derek Lee, who should know better --already expressed their nays last Friday, suggesting the bill is too largely based upon an isolated incident.

This, of course, is bogus.

Either they do not read the news, or their white picket fences are obscuring a real-world view, because knife crime is on a significant rise.

Bill C-393, now in the midst of its second reading, is being pushed by Tory Leeds-Grenville MP Gord Brown, whose constituency includes the city of Brockville where Andy Moffitt was born, and where his parents, Paulette and Rod Moffitt, continue their fight to see that justice is at least done for future victims.

Justice, after all, did not serve their son very well.


Andy Moffitt was killed on the eve of Christmas Eve almost 10 years ago when he innocently attempted to intercede in an argument at an Ottawa bar between what turned out to be a drug dealer and a man he accused of stealing his stash.

Moffitt knew neither person, even though Henry Danninger, the drug dealer who ran his "bad-assed knife" --his words -- through Moffitt's good Samaritan heart, also called Brockville his home.

What Danninger got from the courts was a kiss.

Charged with second-degree murder, he was released on bail only three months after his arrest, only to be re-arrested months later for bizarre acts on his neighbour's home -- caught on camera -- in which he repeatedly vandalized the property with buckets of human waste.

Following his re-arrest, he was allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter and, to add insult to injury, Danninger was rewarded with 2-for-1 credit not only for his time in custody, but also for time he served under house arrest -- all while dousing his neighbour's property with feces.

While he was supposedly sentenced to nine years, the reality is that Henry Danninger served a total of 3 1/2 years in prison, and is now back in Brockville.

What MP Gord Brown's bill proposes will amend both the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Condition Release Act to prevent or deter further violent knife crimes.

It will also replicate existing mandatory minimum sentences already in place for gun homicides (but rarely imposed by judges), and increase sentences for repeat criminal concealment of weapons -- guns and knives.


And, it would modify parole eligibility for gun or knife crimes, increasing it from one-third of the imposed sentence to one-half.

Crimes statistics for 2006 show that 44% of all homicides in this country are committed with knives, as opposed to 17% using guns.

In his speech to the Commons on Friday, Brown also reiterated published comments in which Kingston Police Chief Bill Closs -- a strong advocate of tougher and deterring penalties for knife crime -- told of how 75% of all criminal injury assaults in 19 Ontario jurisdictions, including Cornwall, Ottawa, Kingston and Belleville, were knife related.

He called it an "epidemic."

Scott Newark, former Alberta Crown prosecutor, and special counsel to the Ontario Office for Victims of Crime, assisted Gord Brown in drafting a bill.

"I was surprised at the reaction of opposition MPs when all three of them suggested that the bill is simply a response to a unique set of facts," said Newark. "With the greatest of respect, these guys need to get out more and pay attention to what's happening back home."

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