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Sentencing deliberation begins for child abductor Randall Hopley

Accused child abductor Randall Hopley is led out of the Cranbrook, B.C. courthouse on Sept. 14, 2011.


A B.C. Supreme Court Justice must decide whether a 48-year-old man with an IQ of 65 and the impulse control of an eight-year-old should be declared a dangerous or long-term offender, or if he should spend just two years in jail for abducting a Sparwood, B.C., youngster from his bed more than two years ago.

The sentencing hearing for Randall Hopley concluded Thursday in Cranbrook and Justice Heather Holmes ordered Mr. Hopley to return to the courtroom on Nov. 29 to hear her decision.

Justice Holmes was presented with a wide variation in submissions during the four-day sentencing hearing for Mr. Hopley, who admits to the abduction of three-year-old Kienan Hebert in September, 2011.

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Crown prosecutor Lynal Doerksen said, accounting for time already served, a range of seven to nine years behind bars is appropriate, followed by a 10-year long-term supervision order similar to parole with strict conditions. If Mr. Hopley broke those conditions, Mr. Doerksen explained, he would return to prison.

The Crown also requested dangerous-offender status.

However, defence counsel William Thorne argued Mr. Hopley is not a dangerous offender and should receive up to two years in jail, once time served is tallied.

Mr. Doerksen argued that Mr. Hopley has a pattern of behaviour involving young boys, starting when he was 15 and continuing until 2011, when Kienan was taken from his southeastern B.C. home, but returned safely several days later.

There was no sexual paraphernalia found in the cabin where Mr. Hopley kept Kienan for those days, Mr. Doerksen told the court, but he also argued a sexual motive could not be dismissed.

"Why does a male abduct a child? I think it's safe for the court to conclude that it's to sexually assault the child," Mr. Doerksen said. "The main element is that Hopley will take a child for his own purposes."

The abduction of Kienan was Mr. Hopley's second attempt to snatch a child from a home, and it was a premeditated act, Mr. Doerksen continued, referring to Mr. Hopley's attempted abduction of a 10-year-old boy in Sparwood in 2007.

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"It may have been impulsive through the selection of the victim, but the nature of what was found in the house Kienan was held in shows it was not an impulsive act."

For the defence, Mr. Thorne said the abduction of Kienan and the earlier attempted abduction are not connected to a spate of sexual offences against children that Mr. Hopley committed as a teen.

"This should not be considered a pattern of behaviour at all," Mr. Thorne said.

"[Mr. Doerksen] suggests that having an interest in children itself establishes a pattern. I respectfully disagree. It has to be more than that."

Mr. Hopley "grew out of" the type of sexual offences he committed as a teen, Mr. Thorne told the court.

"What we have here to consider is a criminal past, beginning in the middle of his teen years and extended into his early adult years, of sexually assaulting children. Then there was nothing for quite some time."

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Mr. Hopley has said his motive for the 2007 abduction attempt was to return the 10-year-old boy to his biological mother, who offered Mr. Hopley $2,800 for the task.

Mr. Thorne added that Mr. Hopley has consistently said he abducted Kienan Hebert because he felt he was unfairly treated by police and the court system after the 2007 crime.

"His explanation for the Hebert abduction – strange as it may seem, hard to believe, even – is the explanation he has consistently given."

Crown and defence agreed sentencing should take into account the fact that Kienan was returned to his home.

"The fact that Kienan was returned unharmed is a major mitigating factor and the sentence should reflect that very significantly," Mr. Thorne said.

Mr. Doerksen said the fact Mr. Hopley returned Kienan changes the sentence the prosecution is seeking.

"Had he not returned the child, the Crown would have had no problem seeking a sentence longer than 10 years," he said. "Returning the child does not right the wrong, but it is better than if he did not."

Mr. Thorne urged the court to reject a dangerous-offender designation, instead arguing for a five-year sentence to cover the abduction and the break-ins at the Hebert home and at the cabin in Crowsnest Lake where Kienan was kept.

He said Mr. Hopley should receive time and a half credit for the months already spent in custody, bringing the sentence down to two years.

As for the long-term supervision order sought by the Crown, Mr. Thorne says Mr. Hopley should be placed on probation after his sentence, and he should serve it in a community larger than Sparwood.

"The chances of Hopley going back to Sparwood are nil," Mr. Thorne said. "If he is placed on probation, there is a strong possibility he would be in a different centre where there are more Corrections staff to closely supervise him."

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