Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Sept 19, 2011)

Officials Have questions to answer

By Scott Newark




Canadians breathed a collective sigh of relief with the safe, albeit mysterious, return of three year old Kienan Hebert to his home last week and the subsequent apprehension of the prime suspect, repeat offender, Randall Hopley. The drama of this case played out over a full week which meant that, unlike in most cases, the details of Hopley’s long criminal record and interactions with the justice system were reported publicly.

This rare public awareness of Hopley’s ongoing involvement with the justice system has prompted pointed questions about exactly how it was that he was free and unsupervised the night Kienan Hebert was abducted. While we won’t get public answers to those questions until Hopley’s case is concluded at some undetermined time in the future, they are critical if the people of B.C. and Alberta are to know whether the people vested with authority acted appropriately to protect the public they serve.

This is not meant as a finger pointing exercize. Rather, it is an analysis of how the justice system worked, or didn’t work, operationally, whether all of the existing ‘tools in the toolbox’ were used as they should have been and whether changes are required. The questions that follow are offered to aid in that process and to help ensure all Canadians have a guide to what questions need to be asked….and answered.       

1. Full details of criminal history and releases-

What are the details of Hopley’s charges, convictions and sentences and were these details available to police and Crown from 2007 forward. Once the current charges are resolved, there are no overriding privacy restrictions that compel withholding of such information as both provincial and federal legislation permit release of such information if it is in the ‘public interest’ which this clearly would be as a means to appreciate the performance of the justice system.

2. The 1985 sex assault conviction

Were the details of Hopley’s sex assault conviction available in subsequent cases including if he was kept for his full sentence. Media reports suggest the 1985 sex assault conviction ‘involved children’ which is highly relevant for decision making in his subsequent interaction with justice system officials. Media also reports he was kept for the full 2 year sentence which is very rare and only done when offender is perceived to be the highest risk to re-offend. 

3. The 2008 plea bargain with no child abduction conviction-

BC requires a Crown review of all charges before they proceed so having decided the attempt child abduction charge was appropriate, why was it subsequently withdrawn? Did the sentence include probation, what were the conditions, and was a breach charge pursued for the new offences in 2010? If not, why not?

4. The 2010 Alberta charges

Did the 2010 Alberta B&E and possession of stolen property charges also include evidence of toys for children, candy and a room with an altered lock from the outside? How did he get bail in Alberta case, did the Crown oppose it and reference the previous child related charges and multiple other B&E convictions, did the charges include breach of probation charges, and why did the Crown not appeal the release ruling?

5. The April 2011 BC assault

When did the assault occur relative to the Alberta B&E and was Hopley denied bail? Was he charged with breach of probation or breach of bail and did the Crown seek to revoke his bail and if not why not? Why was the probation period so short? Were police in Alberta aware of the charges?

6. Other proactive remedies not used

Did the police seek to have a High Risk Offender Alert issued in BC following Hopwood’s return to Sparwood and if not, why not? Did the police seek to have the Crown bring an 810.1 Criminal Code order against Hopley with electronic monitoring and if not why not? Was Hopley entered on the national high risk VICLAS system?

7. The abduction of Keenan Hiebert

What are the details of the earlier abduction attempt and was Hopley linked to that incident? What led to Hopley being considered a suspect in the Hiebert abduction, when was that decision made and why was the Alert delayed as long as it was? What is the explanation for the Amber Alert not being issued in Alberta for 4 days considering the fact Hopley was on bail for charges in Alberta which had evidence suggesting child abuse?

 And perhaps most importantly,

8. Will the Governments of B.C. and Alberta launch a joint independent review of these issues which will report its findings publicly?

Scott Newark is a former Alberta Crown Prosecutor and Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association who has also served as Special Counsel to Ontario’s Office for Victims of Crime. He is currently Vice Chair of the National Security Group and a regular commentator on criminal justice and security issues


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2011