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National News

Hopley case delayed until January

CRANBROOK, B.C. - It will be many more weeks before the public learns whether the man who abducted little Kienan Hebert from his home and then returned him days later will be given an indefinite prison sentence.

Randall Hopley, 47, appeared before a B.C. Supreme Court justice via video conference Monday, where a judge heard that a psychiatric assessment to determine whether Hopley should be named a dangerous offender is complete, but it will be the new year before the contents are made public.

The matter was adjourned until Jan. 14.

Justice Heather Holmes heard Monday that more time is needed to study the new report before the sentencing hearing can proceed. Lawyers for the defence and Crown said they'd just received the report Monday, although it was dated Nov. 4.

"We just today received the experts report as to whether he should be found a dangerous or long-term offender," Hopley's lawyer, Bill Thorne, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"I haven't had a chance to review it thoroughly, nor have I had a chance to explain it to my client."

Hopley abducted three-year-old Kienan from his home in Sparwood, B.C., last September, only to return him unharmed four days later.

He pleaded guilty to breaking into the Hebert family's home in the middle of the night last September before taking the boy to a cabin at a nearby bible camp. Hopley was later arrested at the camp.

A psychiatric assessment was ordered by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes last August to determine whether Hopley should be labelled a dangerous offender.

Thorne said the report is a lengthy one and he's not willing to rush ahead to a sentencing hearing when the stakes are so high.

"It will take some time to get face-to-face with Mr. Hopley and get his instructions," said Thorne, who is on vacation in the United States and appeared in court via video link.

"This is such a serious matter. These do take a while for the simple reason that the potential outcome is very serious...a dangerous offender designation would mean he would be in jail for the rest of his life. It's even worse than a first degree murder sentence."

Thorne said it is possible that Hopley could request that an independent psychiatric evaluation be done by a professional of his choosing as well and that would further delay sentencing.

Hopley has insisted he never harmed or sexually assaulted the boy, and the Crown has presented no evidence that he did.

The Crown has noted, though, that Hopley has a criminal history, including a sexual assault on a five-year-old boy in 1985 and an attempted abduction in 2007.

Hopley has been in custody since his arrest and is being kept in protective custody.

When she ordered the assessment, Holmes said although Kienan and his family appeared to have moved on from the ordeal, the impact of Hopley's crimes could have been far worse.

"In my view, common experience tells us there's nothing more frightening to parents than to lose a child,'' Holmes told the court.

"Mr. Hopley made the bogeyman real in their home. It seems like victims of such an event will never feel safe in their home again.''

- By Bill Graveland in Calgary with files from Annalee Grant of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman

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