By Sally MacDonald
Cranbrook Townsman Staff
MP David Wilks is upset that accused child abductor Randall Hopley will not be sentenced for kidnapping.
Hopley, 46, appeared in Cranbrook Supreme Court last Monday, March 26, to plead guilty to abduction of a child under 14, and break and enter with the intent to commit an offence.
The charges were laid after then-three-year-old Kienan Hebert disappeared overnight from his bedroom in his parents’ Sparwood home last September. Kienan was returned four days later, seemingly unharmed, and Hopley was soon after caught by a police dog in nearby Crowsnest Lake, Alberta.
When Hopley was arrested on September 13, three charges were laid against him. But after he pleaded guilty last Monday, Hopley’s counsel William Thorne said the third charge of kidnapping will be dropped by the Crown.
That’s not right, according to Kootenay-Columbia MP David Wilks, who suspects it was part of a plea bargain.
“I do not have the privilege of knowing what Crown and defence spoke about, but it would certainly look that way to me,” he said.
The charge of abduction comes with a maximum sentence of 10 years, whereas kidnapping has a maximum life sentence.
“I don’t think (the abduction charge) reflects the severity of what he did,” said Wilks.
“I’m not saying Hopley would get life in jail – I’m pretty convinced that he wouldn’t. But you’ve limited the opportunity for incarceration on such a significant charge that created not only national but international interest.”
Wilks, who was an RCMP officer for 20 years and knew Hopley through that role, feels that Hopley’s offence is closer to kidnapping when you refer to the Criminal Code of Canada.
“Kidnapping is very clear. It says there must be a movement of taking a person from one place to another and not simply the placing of a person in the area of confinement,” said Wilks.
“It also says that everyone who without lawful authority confines or imprisons or forcibly seizes another person is guilty (of kidnapping). In my opinion, that’s what Randall Hopley did. He, without lawful authority, confined the young child against his will.”
Wilks referred to three high-profile kidnapping cases in B.C. – Kienan Hebert, Michael Dunahee, who disappeared from a Victoria park in 1991, and Mindy Tran, who was killed in Kelowna in 1994.
“All had different outcomes, but I can guarantee you that the persons who kidnapped those children didn’t kidnap them to play with them,” said Wilks.
While Kienan was returned seemingly unharmed, Wilks fears different circumstances could have led to a different outcome.
“Yes, young Mr. Hiebert was returned home safely, but how much longer would it have been if he hadn’t been returned before something happened?” asked Wilks. “The intent I believe was much different than what the outcome was.”
Last September, soon after Hopley was arrested, Wilks tabled a private member’s bill in the House of Commons that would impose a minimum sentence of five years for stranger kidnappings of a person under the age of 16.
“A message has to be sent that this is not tolerated in Canada. If you are going to kidnap a child and you get caught, and hopefully that child is found alive, you are not going to be doing that again for a long time.
“At the end of the day, in my opinion, kidnapping of a young child is of utmost seriousness,” said Wilks.
Randall Hopley faces sentencing for the two charges in Cranbrook on July 18.