B.C. MLA says justice system to blame after high-risk sex offender goes missing

A high-risk sex offender is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant after police say he was able to walk away from his halfway house in Vancouver and disappear on Saturday. Monika Gul has the latest in the search for Randall Hopley.

How a high-risk sex offender was able to cut off his monitoring device and effectively disappear is the question being asked of legislators and public safety departments Monday, as the Canada-wide search continues for Randall Hopley.

BC United Surrey South MLA Elenore Sturko, who is a retired police officer, tells CityNews she believes the justice system is not being aggressive enough when dealing with people who fail to appear before court or breach bail conditions.

“These ankle monitors and this type of supervision on people is not foolproof,” Sturko said.

“Obviously you can cut them off, and we’re talking about a person who is a convicted pedophile, a convicted sex offender, and someone who was convicted of kidnapping a three-year-old.”

Hopley, who is charged with two counts of violating his supervision order in January after he was caught in a public library, just a metre away from children, was scheduled to appear in provincial court in Vancouver Monday. Since the start of the year, he has been bailed with monitoring. Now, the 58-year-old is wanted nationwide.

Hopley had been living at a halfway house near Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside after moving to the city in 2018. He had just been released from prison where he served six years for abducting a three-year-old boy in Sparwood, B.C., in 2011.

A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for 58-year-old Randall Hopley. (Vancouver Police Department)

Deemed a high-risk offender, Hopley has been on a 10-year supervision order since fully serving his federal sentence. Sturko points out that Premier David Eby’s call for the federal government to tighten bail restrictions, especially for long-term offenders, wouldn’t have made a difference in Hopley’s case.

“I think a lot of people will be curious — did our Crown prosecution service, and therefore this government, ask for Mr. Hopley to be remanded in custody for the safety of the public after breaching? Or did they consent to his release to the public?” Sturko asked.

“This is extremely disturbing. And what disturbs me even more, is to see our premier putting the blame on everybody else but refusing to once again look in the mirror. The reality is, the onus would have been on the BC Prosecution Service to argue that Mr. Hopley should have been remanded to custody.”

Sturko claims B.C. has been seeing fewer charges for people breaching conditions, and is overall less aggressively pursuing those cases.

“We have to make sure that we are aggressively pursuing justice on behalf of all British Columbians, especially when someone is on a long-term supervision order,” she said.

Disappearance doesn’t show the justice system is ‘crumbling’: former Crown prosecutor

Meanwhile, a former Crown prosecutor and local defence lawyer says while the public needs to have some “awareness,” it’s not necessary to “panic.”

“I think the public should be concerned that somebody with this notoriety and somebody who has clearly committed very serious offences has managed to slip his bonds, if I can put it that way, by cutting off an ankle monitor … But I don’t think it’s [a reason] to get hysterical and say this is happening all the time,” Rishi Gill told CityNews.

Gill says that as Hopley was required to wear a monitoring device, it suggests that he was under greater scrutiny to begin with.

“A monitor is not common, it’s not the default method of keeping track of people. And the fact that they put an ankle monitor on him shows there’s an awareness that they have to make sure that they can find out where this person is at all times,” he explained.

Gill is curious, however, about how monitoring devices actually stay fixed on the offender, saying that “perhaps a solution is to make sure it’s fundamentally going to stay there forever.”

While concern is valid, Gill says he doesn’t want this particular incident to stoke hysteria, anger, or fear.

“That’s what you see going on in the States right now. I mean, look at so many things that are happening where it’s just this fear, this anger, and it drives people to very, very negative actions,” he said.

“I’ve said it before: we have a very, very enviable justice system in Canada. And all a civilized country is, is a place governed by laws — there’s no magic to it.

“The only way we can move forward properly is by respecting the rules to a certain extent and working within those. And, certainly, we could be angry sometimes and we can be concerned, we can be passionate, but always remember that we shouldn’t make rules based on very rare occurrences,” Gill explained.

“This occurrence is very rare.”

Vancouver police urge anyone with information to come forward

Speaking to CityNews Monday morning, Vancouver Police Department Sgt. Steve Addison explained officers have been working hard the past two days to follow up on multiple tips around Hopley’s disappearance.

“We understand there’s a lot of fear, there’s a lot of anxiety in the community over the fact that Hopley, who is violent and has a violent history of offences, including sexual offences against children, has disappeared from his halfway house,” Addison said.

“We share those concerns in the community. They’re absolutely valid, and we’re doing everything that we can to track him down,”

Addison explained that on Saturday afternoon, Hopley told people he was “headed towards a thrift store,” and did not return for his 7 p.m. curfew.

While there haven’t yet been confirmed sightings of Hopley, Addison is urging the public to continue to notify police of any information.

“If you see somebody you think is him, you get that gut feeling, just call us, let us investigate, because we want to get him back into custody as quickly as we can so that we can begin to ease some of the fear and anxiety that has resulted in the fact that he’s taken off and skipped out on his halfway house.”

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