Randall Hopley will spend another five years in prison, followed by 10 years of close supervision, after a Supreme Court judge handed down a decision in Cranbrook’s courthouse on Friday, Nov. 29.
But Justice Heather Holmes did not give the 48-year-old abductor of Kienan Hebert a dangerous offender status, which would have landed him in prison for an indeterminate time, possibly the rest of his life.
Instead, Justice Holmes gave Hopley the label of long-term offender. That means that once he has served his prison sentence, Hopley will be in the community but under the supervision of the federal parole board, with conditions set by the parole board. If he breaks those conditions, he can be returned to prison for up to another 10 years.
Hopley pleaded guilty to the Sept. 2011 abduction of three-year-old Kienan Hebert from his home in Sparwood in the middle of the night. He then took Kienan to an abandoned cabin in Crowsnest Lake, Alberta, where the little boy was kept for four days. Then Hopley returned Kienan to his home and left the child curled up on the sofa.
Justice Holmes gave Hopley a sentence of seven years and two months for the offences, but Hopley was given credit off his sentence at day-for-day for the 26 months he has already served in custody awaiting Friday’s hearing.
In her decision, Justice Holmes said Hopley could not be given dangerous offender status because he has not displayed a pattern of repetitive behaviour in his criminal record.
Hopley had a string of convictions in the 1980s, before he turned 20, of sexual assaults against young children.
But he has not been convicted of a sexual offence since 1985. In 2007, he attempted but ultimately failed to take a 10-year-old boy from his foster mother in Sparwood, claiming he was acting on behalf of the boy’s biological mother.
Justice Holmes said that act was not similar enough to the 2011 abduction of Kienan to make the two offences a pattern, and the gap between the 1985 sexual assault and the 2007 offence is too long to be considered part of a pattern.
“The Crown submits that the pattern of using children for his own purposes began when Mr. Hopley as a teenager used children for sexual purposes. I cannot agree because those sexual offences are too far removed in time from the abduction related offences, and they share only the slightest of features,” she said.
Instead, the judge ruled that Hopley is a long-term offender, pointing largely to the facts that he carefully planned his abduction of Kienan, he does not feel empathy for any of his victims, and he remains convinced that he was justified in taking the boy from his home.
“He acted without any real concern about the enormity of the harm he was likely to cause,” said Justice Holmes.
She referred to Hopley’s claim that he took Kienan because he felt he’d been treated unfairly in his 2007 conviction.
“The logic by which Mr. Hopley justifies his offences is in my view likely sincere. However it is that very method of thinking which in my view places Mr. Hopley at substantial risk of reoffending.”
With the long-term offender status comes a supervision order of up to 10 years. Justice Holmes chose to give Hopley the maximum time for that order. She referred to the evidence of forensic psychiatrist Dr. Emlene Murphy, who said that homosexual pedophiles become less likely to reoffend with age, with the risk of reoffending dropping off greatly after age 70.
“Mr. Hopley is now 48. After he has served the appropriate period of imprisonment for these offences, long term supervision for the maximum period available will take him close to the age where his risk of reoffending will be minimal,” said Justice Holmes.
The prosecution had been seeking a sentence of 8 to 10 years, while defense counsel was seeking a sentence of 4 to 6 years.
Hopley may appeal, defense lawyer says
The Hebert family will now be able to put this traumatic event behind them, Crown prosecutor Lynal Doerksen said after the sentence was handed down.
“I know the Heberts will be happy this is over and the attention they have been given will go away now. I’m sure they are going to be happy with that,” he said.
Justice Holmes in her decision said the Heberts have shown “exceptional fortitude” in dealing with Kienan’s abduction, adding that Kienan’s mother has written to Hopley in prison encouraging him to seek support.
“This is a very unique family and they have been very forgiving,” said Doerksen. “They have been dealing with this in their own way and have done a remarkable job with that. It certainly is very unique; I haven’t seen a family like this very often.”
The Crown knew that achieving dangerous offender status for Hopley would not be easy, he went on, “because Mr. Hopley did not commit any physical harm or a sexual assault against Kienan Hebert. It’s a problem I’m glad we had. I’m glad Kienan was returned to his family whole and that we did not have an easier case.
“The Crown is pleased with the results. This means Mr. Hopley will be in custody or under strict supervision until he is about 63. The Crown is very happy he has got the sentence he deserved, and the long term offender designation means the public will be protected for a very long time.”
But defense counsel William Thorne said that, while Hopley was not surprised by the long term offender designation or the seven-year sentence, he is considering an appeal of the 10-year supervision order and the one-for-one credit for time served. Thorne had been seeking credit at 1.5 times the days served waiting sentencing.
“He and I are going to have further discussions and he may consider some points of the judgement he may wish to appeal,” said Thorne.
Hopley does plan to take advantage of treatment options while he’s in prison, Thorne went on.
“Mr. Hopley within the past couple of years has come around to thinking that some treatment for his problems might be helpful, not so much just to reduce his sentence, but hopefully, when he does get out into society again, to help him not reoffend so he doesn’t end up back in jail.”
It’s important that the message gets out, Thorne went on, that Hopley’s sentence was reduced because he brought Kienan back without harming him.
“That was a very, very significant mitigating factor that rightly should lessen his sentence,” said Thorne. “Hopefully anyone that’s contemplating a similar type of action in the future will recognize that leaving the child unharmed is in everybody’s best interest, including the offender.”