MNA Harold LeBel likely to face sexual assault charge in spring trial, quite close to election

Rimouski MNA Harold LeBel is still waiting to know the date of his trial for sexual assault. But one thing seems clear: it will be this spring, not long before provincial election campaiging starts up.

During a videoconference hearing on Monday, Judge Raymond W. Pronovost said it could take place in April or early May 2022. The trial, which will take place by jury, is expected to last two weeks.

The judge said he should be ready to announce the exact date for by the end of the year. He said he is currently prioritizing older files.

Defence lawyer Maxime Roy had already indicated that his client wanted a trial as soon as possible. He said on Monday that April would suit him.

On the other hand, Roy warned against holding a trial against an MNA in the fall of 2022, when the Quebec election campaign will be in full swing.

LeBel was arrested on December 15, 2020 by police officers from the Sûreté du Québec, then expelled from the Parti Québécois for the duration of the legal process.

On January 11, 2021, he announced through his lawyer his intention to plead not guilty to the charge of sexual assault that has been brought against him.

The alleged offences are said to have occurred in 2017, and the identity of the alleged victim is protected by a publication ban.

The news of LeBel's arrest that month had the effect of a bomb on the National Assembly, where he had a good reputation.

He continues to sit as an independent, but he told the National Assembly last winter that he would not be physically sitting in parliament, preferring to focus on his constituency work.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 6, 2021.

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