BY BOB ZIMMER
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP
As a parent of four I know what it’s like to worry for your children and their safety. While we can’t always personally protect them, there is an expectation that our laws and justice system will act as a safety net to help protect us from criminals and perpetrators of violent crime.
However, I found myself once again shaking my head in disbelief after reading that Randall Hopley, a long-term, high-risk offender sentenced to prison in 2013 for abducting a three-year-old boy from his home in Sparwood in 2011, has been released.
The Vancouver Police have taken the step of issuing a public warning saying that he is now living in Vancouver and “poses a risk of significant harm to the safety of young boys.”
Not only that but a federal parole board decision last year stated that Mr. Hopley’s “offending behaviour has been described by professionals as difficult to treat and [he has] refused to participate in interventions while incarcerated … There is no indication that [he has] lessened [his] risk to the community.”
How does someone like this get to live in Vancouver and walk the streets with our kids just a year later?
Although Mr. Hopley has completed his sentence, there are still many questions surrounding this case. Why wasn’t Mr. Hopley declared a dangerous offender by the courts? Why did the Crown stay the kidnapping charge? And why didn’t the Crown pursue other measures to keep him behind bars longer?
It was this case that inspired my former Conservative colleague, David Wilks, to introduce a Private Members’ Bill that amended the Criminal Code to impose a mandatory minimum penalty of five years imprisonment on those convicted of kidnapping a child under the age of 16 unless that person is the parent, guardian or has legal care of the child.
Mr. Wilks was mayor of Sparwood from 2005-2011 and, after serving as a Member of Parliament from 2011-15, was recently elected mayor once again.
I was proud to stand in support of Mr. Wilks’ Private Members’ Bill, which received Royal Assent in 2013 and is now law.
I can’t imagine what the victim and his family are going through right now, especially after reading that they weren’t even notified that Mr. Hopley had been released.
It is cases like this that make it clear that more needs to be done to strengthen our justice system. Perhaps it is time that we examine other ways to ensure that the hands of law enforcement are not tied when it comes to the release of individuals who are at high risk of re-offending or show no interest in rehabilitation while in custody.
We need to ensure that our focus always remains on protecting our most vulnerable and doing what is best and what is right for victims and their families.