British Columbia’s attorney general says it’s “unacceptable” that a high-risk sex offender was able to walk away from a Vancouver halfway house, and the province needs to understand what happened to prevent a reoccurrence.
Niki Sharma says it’s disturbing Randall Hopley went missing on Saturday after removing his electronic monitoring bracelet, and it’s something that “should not happen.”
Hopley, 58, is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant and has a history of convictions for assault, property offences and sexual crimes that include three offences against children.
He was declared a long-term offender and handed a six-year prison term for the 2011 abduction of a three-year-old boy from his home in Sparwood in southeastern British Columbia.
Hopley held the victim captive in a cabin for four days before returning him apparently unharmed.
Vancouver police say Hopley left his Vancouver halfway house on Saturday at about 3 p.m., telling several people that he was going to a nearby thrift store.
Instead, he removed his monitoring device and has not been seen since, something Vancouver Police Sgt. Steve Addison calls “deliberate actions” that were likely taken to avoid an upcoming court appearance.
“When [such incidents] happen, we have to understand how it happened and make sure we can make the system better,” Sharma said, adding that B.C.’s Crown counsel had advocated for stronger conditions on Hopley, including detention.
In January, the National Parole Board recommended charges against Hopley after determining that he didn’t comply with supervision orders related to his release, allegedly visiting a library and going within a metre of a group of children.
The BC Prosecution Service said Hopley was arrested on Jan. 12 following the recommendation, but was released on bail with conditions on Feb. 8.
His trial was scheduled to begin Monday.
Addison said Hopley had been released to a halfway house while awaiting the resolution of that case when he walked away.
Sharma, who grew up in Sparwood, said she was keenly aware of Hopley’s case and how the abduction impacted the community.
“It’s of pressing importance we catch this individual as soon as possible,” Sharma said.
On Sunday, B.C. Premier David Eby said he didn’t understand why Hopley was “insufficiently supervised and able to walk away from the halfway house.”
Eby also criticized delays in federal bail reform legislation currently stuck in the Senate, which he said would aid law enforcement in targeting repeat offenders.
BC United MLA Elenore Sturko, however, said the delay had little bearing on the Hopley case, and Eby’s NDP government should take more blame.
Sturko said the proposed federal legislation targets violent and weapons-related crime, and not specifically abductions, sex crimes or offences against children.
She also drew parallels between the Hopley case and that of Blair Donnelly, a 64-year-old man released from a forensic psychiatric hospital before allegedly stabbing three people in Vancouver’s Chinatown in September.
“I think that it’s an attempt to divert people from the responsibility that we have here to protect people, every time the premier brings up Ottawa,” Sturko said.
“I think that the premier needs to take a very close look at things that are happening under his watch in this province and think of perhaps doing a review about how he can protect the public better.”
VPD’s Addison said Hopley could still be in Vancouver or a neighbouring municipality and the department’s high-risk offender team is among the units searching for him.