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Sex offender was arrested and released days before alleged attack on teenager in St. John's, court papers indicate

Stephen Hopkins. TELEGRAM FILE PHOTO
Stephen Hopkins. — Telegram file photo

Advocates and neighbours question lack of public notice by police of Stephen Hopkins' recent charges of breaching sex offender registration orders

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The man charged with sexual assault on a St. John’s teenager Friday morning had been arrested four days earlier for breaching sex offender registration orders and released to await his court date, court documents show.

Stephen Hopkins, 29, has been back in custody since Friday, when he was charged with break and entry, forcible confinement and the sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl in her own home, as well as another court order breach.

Hopkins had only been living in the community for two months — he was released on a sentence of time served July 29, after spending a year in prison on remand for sexually assaulting two women on the Long Pond trail in St. John’s in August of 2019, among other charges. Along with the jail time, Hopkins was sentenced to two years of probation, a 10-year firearm ban and registration as a sex offender for 10 years.

As a registered sex offender, Hopkins was ordered to check in at a registration centre within a week of his release. A warrant for his arrest was issued when he didn’t show up.

Court documents indicate RNC officers arrested Hopkins on the warrant Sept. 14, charging him with breaching the Sex Offender Registration Act and his probation order, and giving him a date to appear in court to answer to the charges.

Four days later, they took him into custody and charged him with attacking the teenager.

Hopkins allegedly knocked on the door of a home in Cowan Heights and when the girl answered, asked her for a drink of water. He then forced his way into the home and sexually assaulted her before leaving, police say.

Police say the man and the girl do not know each other.


“It’s absolutely concerning, That leaves us all in a vulnerable position, especially if he had disobeyed court orders, and that quickly. Why let him go? It’s a serious charge.” — Michelle Greene, executive director of Iris Kirby House.


Hopkins, whom RNC officers located in the neighbourhood, made a brief court appearance Friday before appearing again by phone Monday afternoon. He waived his right to a bail hearing, but indicated he may apply for bail in the future, and will be called before a judge again on Oct. 2.

At the time, The Telegram reported the attack Monday evening, there was no indication from court documents or proceedings that the complainant was a youth. Her age was confirmed early Tuesday morning and the report was updated.

The RNC declined to provide the girl’s age, citing protection of her privacy. When asked why police had not issued a news release about the attack and Hopkins’ arrest, a police spokesman said an advisory would be forthcoming.

On Tuesday afternoon, the RNC issued a news release with details of the attack on the youth and Hopkins’ subsequent arrest, asking for the public’s assistance in locating potential surveillance camera or dash camera footage from the Cowan Heights area of St. John’s. The release did not mention Hopkins’ arrest or charges laid Sept. 14. There was also no mention of his registered sex offender status.

“What is frightening to me is that he was charged with breaching the sex offender registration (orders), but not taken in custody,” one Cowan Heights woman told The Telegram Tuesday afternoon. “Why not? Why wasn’t the public notified that he was being charged with disobeying the sex offender registration (orders) a week after he was let out of prison for another sexual assault and was still a free man?”

Some local women’s and youth advocates are asking the same question about Hopkins’ release after being arrested on the warrant.

“It’s absolutely concerning,” said Michelle Greene, executive director of Iris Kirby House. “That leaves us all in a vulnerable position, especially if he had disobeyed court orders, and that quickly. Why let him go? It’s a serious charge.”

Greene suggested the court consider making it mandatory for registered sex offenders to check in with the registration centre before they are released from custody, instead of giving them a seven-day timeline.

Police had an obligation to inform the public of the assault, even if the suspect had already been apprehended, said women’s rights activist and counsellor Jenny Wright.

“The police need to advise the public why it didn’t happen,” she said. “They have clearly issued this type of advisory in the past because they are fully aware that the chances of reoffending are high with this type of perpetrator. In fact, this type of violence often becomes more violent in nature over time.

“The question has to be asked, had they issued an advisory could this horrific attack have been prevented?”

RNC media relations officer Const. James Cadigan did not comment on Hopkins’ sex offender registration order breaches nor his related arrest and release.

Cadigan said police had not released an advisory about the attack the day it happened, since their investigation was ongoing. There was a concern about making sure appropriate information was released, he said, with specific sensitivities in light of the fact the complainant is a child.

“These types of incidents are extremely alarming and scary and we certainly understand the community’s disgust with them,” Cadigan said. “We want to take a trauma-informed approach with victims and survivors and their families and we want to continue with that approach to progress our investigations.”

Investigators in the RNC’s child abuse and sexual assault unit are dedicated and diligent, Cadigan stressed.

“Members of (the) unit are always available to speak with victims and survivors of crime and to work through an investigation to hold offenders accountable.”

It’s not unusual for a person charged with breaching the Sex Offender Registration and Information Act to be released from custody to await a court appearance. Depending on the circumstances and the nature of the breach, a conviction can result in a sentence ranging from a discharge to federal prison time.

Though Hopkins has waived his right to a bail hearing for now, he has the right to change his mind and apply for bail in the future.

On Monday, he indicated to the judge he plans to appeal his recent convictions, including the two sexual assaults.

“I’ve been out for a month and a half. I want to file an appeal and I called Legal Aid for advice on how to go about that, but I never heard back from anyone,” he told Judge Colin Flynn. “I don’t want matters to be confused.”

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