Psych assessment ordered for Stephen Hopkins, as convicted rapist ponders getting a lawyer

·2 min read
Stephen Hopkins awaits a decision on a psychiatric assessment at Supreme Court in St. John's on Friday morning.  (Malone Mullin/CBC - image credit)
Stephen Hopkins awaits a decision on a psychiatric assessment at Supreme Court in St. John's on Friday morning. (Malone Mullin/CBC - image credit)

Convicted sex offender Stephen Hopkins will seek help from a Legal Aid lawyer for his sentencing hearings, as he prepares to undergo a psychiatric assessment as part of an application that could put him behind bars for the rest of his life.

The St. John's man was convicted on all charges against him, including sexual assault and forcible confinement, on June 17, for his attack on a 17-year-old girl in 2020.

His steadfast refusal to obtain legal representation prolonged his Supreme Court trial with delays and lengthy cross-examination sessions, which he often peppered with insults and accusations against witnesses and Justice Donald Burrage.

On Friday, in a short hearing, Burrage stressed the severity of his conviction.

"I would, as I have in the past, strongly advise you have a lawyer representing you going forward," Burrage told him.

"These charges are serious.… You are ill-equipped to represent yourself, however you may think otherwise. So swallow whatever's driving you, be it pride or whatever else, and get a lawyer. I can't say it any clearer."

Hopkins insisted several times that he would be asking Legal Aid for "counsel but not representation" and said he had not yet been assigned an attorney.

He will undergo a psychiatric assessment ordered by Burrage on Friday as part of the Crown's application for dangerous offender status, a designation reserved for Canada's most violent criminals and sexual predators.

Burrage pointed to Hopkins's previous sex assault conviction, plus a record of his interactions with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, as reasonable grounds for that evaluation.

Crown attorneys can seek the designation during sentencing and must show there's a high risk the criminal will commit violent or sexual offences in the future. Prosecutor Jennifer Standen argued in her application that Hopkins showed a pattern of failing to restrain his behaviour and sexual impulses.

The "dangerous offender" designation carries an automatic sentence of imprisonment for an indeterminate period, with no chance of parole for seven years.

A doctor has 90 days to perform a psychiatric assessment and prepare a report, meaning Hopkins won't return to court until Sept. 14 for a status update.

He will remain in custody at the Waterford Hospital for 60 days while the assessment is completed, and incarcerated until his next hearing.

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