Justice Heather Holmes employed a rarely used law Thursday to have admitted child abductor Randall Hopley remanded in custody pending a dangerous offender assessment.
In her reasons, Holmes told Cranbrook Supreme Court that Hopley's crimes against three-year-old Kienan Hebert were likely to cause "severe psychological damage," and although it appeared that was not the case, a different family could have suffered further.
"In my view, common experience tells us that there's nothing more frightening to parents than to lose a child," Holmes said. She added that Hopley's lengthy criminal history, which included a 1985 sexual assault charge against a young boy, caused further "agony" to the family as they waited for their son to be returned.
Hopley pleaded guilty in March to charges of abduction and break and enter with intent to commit an indictable offence. He also plead guilty to charges of break and enter and possession of stolen property that were waived in from Alberta at the request of Crown counsel there. Crown counsellor Lynal Doerksen requested that Hopley be declared a dangerous offender in July when the sentencing hearing began. Holmes reserved her decision to August 9. When delivering her reasons for the assessment, Holmes said Hopley disrupted the Hebert family's way of life.
"Mr. Hopley made the Booygeyman real in their home," she said. "It seems like that in this offence the victims will never again feel safe in their home."
The Hebert family did not enter any victim impact statements, and in video evidence played on July 18, the father of the boy met with Hopley and said his family was moving on. Paul Hebert also told his child's abductor he forgave him, and that he would visit him in prison and provide help if needed. Tammy Hebert, the mother, sent Hopley a letter earlier this year saying she forgave Hopley as well.
"Mr. Hopley was lucky in his choice of victims," Holmes said. "Even though the crime was non-violent ? and the Heberts' didn't experience damage, many others would have."
Doerksen agreed with Holmes' statement, and told media gathered after the hearing that this is an exceptional situation.
"The Crown is pleased with the ruling. It's a unique case," he said. "This is the kind of case that normally would cause significant damage."
Counsel for Hopley, William Thorne told media after the hearing that the determination by Holmes to send Hopley for a psychiatric assessment due to the likelihood of his crimes to cause damage is rarely used.
"It's very rarely used in a case like this," Thorne said. "This is rarely charted territory."
Thorne, who spoke to Hopley after the ruling, said his client was emotionless about Holmes' decision, but would like to move on.
"I didn't find Mr. Hopley to be seriously down or seriously up about this," Thorne said. "Clearly it's in his best interests to not be found a dangerous offender or long-term offender."
Thorne said there was no evidence to suggest Hopley had in fact caused severe psychological damage to Kienan or his family. When asked is Kienan could develop psychological issues as he gets older, Doerksen said it would be unfair to speculate.
Hopley will be remanded into the custody of the Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission for 60 days. He will likely be sent to Port Coquitlam's Forensic Psychiatry Hospital. After that time, Hopley will be returned to the custody of the B.C. Sheriffs Service and will return to Cranbrook Supreme Court on October 15 at 2 p.m. via video link. At that time, Doerksen and Thorne indicated the psychiatric report may not be completed, but Holmes said they could fix a date or put the hearing over. Holmes indicated she would also like to appear via video link for the next date.
See more coverage of Hopley's hearing in Monday's paper.