Sexual assault: ex-MP Harold LeBel gets 8 months in prison
Dismissed MP Harold LeBel left court in handcuffs and escorted by corrections officers on Thursday, sentenced to eight months in prison for a sexual assault that occurred in 2017.
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In the moments following the sentence pronounced by judge Serge Francoeur, Harold LeBel, visibly upset, held out his wrists to the correctional officer who accompanied him. When the clank of the handcuffs sounded, the ousted MP glanced at the loved ones accompanying him before leaving for the first day of the rest of his life.
Because if he will be released from prison, most likely before the eight-month deadline, Harold LeBel will carry the label of “sex aggressor” for life.
“I hope to be able to move on eventually. […] The hardest thing is to be seen as someone I’m not,” the politician told the court, adding that he didn’t want to “become a trophy” but still had “thoughts” to make. .
“And I understand that I will have time to do them.”
The eight-month sentence stemmed from a joint suggestion between the prosecution and the defence. A proposal that Judge Francoeur quickly endorsed, recalling the impact of the crime on the victim.
“I have continually remembered since I acted in this case the whirlwind in which you plunged the victim. This young woman, despite great mental strength, saw her world collapse, betrayed by a friend, a mentor she trusted,” the magistrate said during the sentencing.
Absent from court and still protected by an order preventing him from being identified, the victim addressed the court through a statement read by crown prosecutor Manon Gaudreault. Admitting to having felt weak for not having repelled her attacker and for not having denounced earlier, she assured Thursday that it was now a feeling of grandeur that inhabited her.
“I feel strong. Strong to have got up and to have gone to the end.
A journey that the crown prosecutor welcomed, describing the outcome of the trial as satisfactory, especially since it sends “a strong message”. (See text below).
The plaintiff had related to the jurors during the trial what she described as “night of hell”.
LeBel, whom she considered a friend, hosted her in his condo while she was in Rimouski for work. A third person, a friend of the two involved, was also present, but was sleeping in a room at the time.
After a discussion in the kitchen where Harold LeBel kissed her and a rapprochement in a hallway where he undid her bra, the young woman took refuge in the bathroom and said that the deputy had spent a long moment in front of the door.
- Listen to the Gibeault-Dutrizac meeting with Nicole Gibeault, retired judge at the microphone of Benoit Dutrizac on QUB-radio :
Lying in a Murphy bed in the living room, she was joined by Harold LeBel who asked her to sleep with her, which she agreed to “buy peace”. It was at this moment that the chosen one began to touch her, to flatter her, before inserting a finger into her anus.
“It was absolutely endless. […] I told myself that he was going to stop, that he was going to fall asleep, but it continued, ”she testified before the jury.
Harold LeBel has always denied the assault, admitting that he and the victim kissed and slept in the same bed, but nothing more.
“I never did that,” he said during the trial. Again during sentencing, LeBel nodded his head in disagreement when Judge Francoeur summarized the events that occurred one October evening in 2017.
Email exchanges where the deputy wrote to the woman to be “sorry for all that” however visibly sowed doubt in the minds of the jury, who found him guilty.
Harold LeBel had announced just before Christmas that he had no intention of appealing the decision. His lawyer had indicated that despite a deep disappointment, “Judge Serge Francoeur conducted this trial in an irreproachable manner”.
Two decisions in quick succession that send a strong message to aggressors
The sentence imposed on former MP Harold LeBel and the Court of Appeal decision sentencing engineer Simon Houle to one year in prison are two strong messages sent in quick succession to sexual aggressors, rejoices the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP).
“The law is equal for all,” recalled Mr.e Manon Gaudreault, crown prosecutor who led the LeBel case, the latest in a series of trials for sexual offenses involving public figures.
And with these decisions, the law is also clear, sexual assault must be punished severely.
“In my eyes, there is no small or heavy sexual assault. […] A sexual assault, however small it may be and this is not the case here, must stop and I hope that this case will have this effect,” declared Judge Serge Francoeur when sentencing Harold LeBel to 8 months detention.
Restoring the trust of victims
This message is a victory, a step forward for the DPCP.
Because despite these decisions, it remains difficult to convince victims to embark on the legal process. The LeBel case is an example of this, the victim having taken several months before making the decision to start, hesitating for a long time and preferring to bury the consequences that flowed from the crime deep within herself before finally contacting the police.
“For two years, denial served as a defense mechanism for me to face pain and shame,” the victim testified in a statement read in court on Thursday.
“I think it can help restore victims’ confidence in the justice system. When they denounce, when they lodge a complaint, there are consequences, ”said Me Gaudreault, recalling that the same message is addressed to the aggressors.
“The justice system is there for the abusers, there are consequences.”
Recall that Simon Houle, an engineer initially absolved of a sentence for sexual assault since the judge considered him an important asset for society, was sentenced to one year in prison on Wednesday for the court of appeal which quashed the judgment of first case.
What they said:
- “Imagine being sexually assaulted by someone you trust completely. How destabilizing it can be. You think you know someone and in seconds everything falls apart” – the victim in a written statement
- “It’s terrible for me. I have always been close to groups that fought against aggression and it bothers me to be seen today as an aggressor. It goes against all my values” – Harold LeBel
- “After the jury had returned its verdict, I would have closed the file and already, you would have had some pain. Ending your political career by being excluded from your training, which was so important to you, is a pain. You also have to live with the sex offender label from now on. That being said, you have been an asset to society, but you can become one again” – Judge Serge Francoeur
- “We already had an agreement for eight months, but when the court of appeal filed [mercredi] its decision in the case of Simon Houle, it confirmed the accuracy of our agreement” – Me Manon Gaudreault, Crown Prosecutor