What is a dangerous offender?

Admitted child abductor Randall Hopley was sent for a psychiatric assessment on August 9.

  • Aug. 14, 2012 5:00 a.m.

By Annalee Grant

Black Press staff

 

Admitted child abductor Randall Hopley was sent for a psychiatric assessment on August 9 to determine if he should be declared a dangerous offender.

Hopley was 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.

Should he be deemed a dangerous offender (DO), Hopley could be imprisoned indefinitely. He has admitted to abducting three-year old Kienan Hebert in September, 2011.

According to a 2002 report from Correctional Service Canada, sexual offences are the leading conviction for DOs at 84 per cent. They are followed by kidnapping at 27 per cent, while murder is second on the list at two per cent. Homicide is usually exempt from DO or long-term offender status according to the legislation. Pedophilia offences accounted for 41 per cent of DO statuses.

High risk offender laws were added to the Canadian constitution in 1947, but they have been restructured several times since then. The current program was introduced in 1977 after a review was ordered by the Canadian Committee on Corrections.

The law in which Hopley has been remanded in custody was implemented in the 1990’s. Crown counsel can seek DO status, pending a psychiatric assessment. The status provides a tool for courts to impose conditions on an offender if there are reasonable fears that they will commit a criminal organization, terrorism offence, a sexual offence against someone under the age of 16, or a “serious personal injury offence.”

In 2008 new reforms gave Crown counsel the ability to notify the court of a DO application should the accused by convicted of a third designated offence.

The court must prove that severe psychological damage was or was likely to have been done to the victim, and the accused is then sent for a psychological assessment.

Hopley’s assessment will determine if he is a DO, and if it is decided he does not fit the criteria, he will be evaluated for long-term offender status.

A DO declaration imposes an indefinite prison term – the toughest punishment under Canadian law, and as previously mentioned, a status that has been reserved for Canada’s most dangerous and violent criminals. A long-term offender will get a set prison term, but will be monitored either for life, or for 10 years after completing the prison time.

In her decision Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes cited Hopley’s criminal record, which included a conviction for sexual assault in September, 1985. He served two years in prison and three years probation. Hopley protested the second charge used as a basis for the DO assessment, which was a break and enter from March 2008. Charges of sexual assault were stayed in that case, and Hopley received 18 months.

Holmes noted that all offences for which Hopley is currently appearing in court for are punishable by a sentence of 10 years or more. She also told court that one of the victims in the previous crimes committed by Hopley did suffer prolonged psychiatric difficulties.

While the Crown did not establish that severe psychological damage had been done in the case of the Hebert family, Holmes determined it was likely that the crimes against Kienan could have to a different family.

“I’m satisfied that the low threshold is met,” she said. “It is clear that Mr. Hopley has been convicted previously of a designated offence.”

One of Canada’s most infamous criminals of all, Paul Bernardo was granted the status for a string of rapes and three murders committed with his wife and accomplice, Karla Homolka, in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

More recently, Russell Williams, who murdered two women and was convicted of 88 charges in total including many break and enters, did not receive DO status, although it was discussed during the trial.

The Crown attorney decided adding DO status would be redundant because Williams was handed a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for first-degree murder. It was decided that the criminal record of Williams would sufficiently prove that he will pose a danger for the rest of his life, even after the 25 years until a parole hearing is allowed.

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