Stephen Hopkins guilty of sexual assault, forcible confinement in attack on 17-year-old

·3 min read
Stephen Hopkins was found guilty of sexual assault and forcible confinement in N.L. Supreme Court Friday afternoon. (Malone Mullin/CBC - image credit)
Stephen Hopkins was found guilty of sexual assault and forcible confinement in N.L. Supreme Court Friday afternoon. (Malone Mullin/CBC - image credit)

A Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court justice has found Stephen Hopkins guilty of sexual assault and forcible confinement for his attack on a 17-year-old girl in her St. John's home.

The verdict, handed down by Justice Donald Burrage on Friday afternoon, marks the end of a lengthy trial during which Hopkins tested the patience of the court.

Throughout the six weeks, marked by delays and meandering lines of questioning from Hopkins, Crown prosecutor Jennifer Standen produced evidence ranging from eyewitness testimony placing Hopkins inside the complainant's home to DNA evidence found on the complainant's body.

Among the witnesses was the young woman herself, who Burrage described as "a most credible and forthright witness."

She described sitting on the front step of her Cowan Heights home drinking coffee on the morning of Sept. 18, 2020, as Hopkins was pushing a cart full of recyclables down the street. Hopkins said "good morning," and then asked for a glass of water. She went in to get it, and when she came back Hopkins was at the front door. He finished the water in one gulp, forced his way inside her home, carried her upstairs, forced sexual acts on her in both her and her parents rooms, and slapped her when she screamed.

Hopkins then threatened to burn the house down before fleeing.

"As I accept her testimony, without reservation, had no other evidence been called, this alone would be enough to convict Mr. Hopkins," wrote Burrage in his decision.

But there was more evidence.

The court also heard from three neighbours who said they saw the girl distraught and crying in her driveway after the assault. One of them said they saw Hopkins leaving the girl's home.

Hopkins was arrested a few minutes later, one street over, and police later found Hopkins's DNA on the teenager.

Denied charges

Throughout the trial Hopkins denied the charges and rejected all the evidence brought against him. He argued the police had bungled their investigation, had the opportunity to tamper with evidence, and framed him.

He said he had nothing to do with the girls assault and argued the police officers who arrested him were prejudiced against him.

But in his decision, Burrage said he found "no evidence of collusion, bias, or other misconduct on the part of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary … in their arrest and detention of Mr. Hopkins and investigation into this case. Similarly, I could find nothing to support Mr. Hopkins' assertion of evidence tampering."

"I did not find Mr. Hopkins to be credible. He was combative with the Crown, at times refusing to answer, and was otherwise evasive," wrote Burrage. "Other than the admission that he was on Tanner Street with a shopping cart full of recyclables on the morning in question, I do not believe a single word of Mr. Hopkins' testimony. Nor am I left with a reasonable doubt by it."

Burrage found Hopkins guilty of all six charges — sexual assault, breaking and entering, forcible confinement, assault, uttering threats to damage property, and breach of probation.

Hopkins told the court he had been living in a shelter at the time and had just been released from prison for a previous sexual assault conviction.

Other than the admission that he was on Tanner Street with a shopping cart full of recyclables on the morning in question, I do not believe a single word of Mr. Hopkins' testimony. - Justice Donald Burrage

He's listed in the sex offender registry, placed there for a decade after he was convicted of attacking two women on Long Pond trail in St. John's in 2019.

He was cleared of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon charges in 2014, when a judge decided he acted in self-defence when he stabbed a man during a confrontation in the city's west end a year earlier.

Standen has advised the court she's seeking an assessment to see whether Hopkins should be labelled a long-term offender.

He's due back in court on June 24 for a status update.

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