RIMOUSKI, QUE. -- Former Parti Québécois legislator Harold LeBel was sentenced on Thursday to eight months in jail after being found guilty in November of sexually assaulting a woman at his condo in 2017.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Serge Francoeur accepted the joint sentencing recommendation from the prosecution and defence at the courthouse in Rimouski, Que., about 320 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.

Earlier, prosecutor Manon Gaudreault read a statement from the victim expressing sympathy for LeBel, who she said "will have to pay for his actions, criminal acts — serious and reprehensible, of course — but which do not in themselves define a person."

“I have never felt so vulnerable in my entire life as that night in Rimouski,” said the woman, whose name is protected by a publication ban. “How are we supposed to react when a man over twice your weight assaults you? I was so scared."

During the trial, the woman testified that LeBel became "aggressive'' when she refused his advances. She said he unhooked her bra and entered a bathroom where she had sought refuge. She said he then joined her in a bed where he repeatedly touched her sexually for several hours.

LeBel, who addressed the court Thursday, said the matter has been "terrible" for his career and for his values. Explaining that he had always worked closely with groups that advocated against assaults, he said, "it pains me to be seen as an assailant."

Lebel, who was a member of the legislature from 2014 to 2022, will serve two years probation in addition to the eight months in jail. He is prohibited from contacting the victim, will be registered as a sex offender for 20 years and is required to submit a DNA sample to authorities.

Gaudreault had urged the court to send a clear message that those who commit sex crimes will be punished.

The prosecutor said that among the aggravating factors that justified the sentence were LeBel's breach of trust and the fact he continued to assault the victim — and intensified his actions — despite her repeated refusals. Mitigating factors, she said, included the fact that he did not have a criminal record before his assault and that he had apologized to the victim and expressed remorse.

A jury of nine women and three men took two days to find LeBel guilty in November.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.