Head of Quebec Bar suspended after alleged shoplifting incident

The Quebec Bar has suspended its newly elected head Lu Chan Khuong after allegations she was involved in a shoplifting incident last year in Laval.

Lawyer questions why no charges laid in alleged theft of 2 pairs of jeans worth $455

Lu Chan Khuong, the newly elected head of Quebec's Bar Association, has been suspended indefinitely following allegations of shoplifting. (Radio-Canada)

The Quebec Bar has suspended its newly elected head after allegations she was involved in a shoplifting incident last year in Laval.

The Bar's board of directors held a special meeting Wednesday and voted unanimously to demand Lu Chan Khuong resign.

After she refused, the board suspended her indefinitely.

The move came following an interview Khuong gave to La Presse, in which she addressed the allegations.

Charges were never laid.

Instead, the Quebec Bar confirms Khuong said the Crown decided to deal with the case non-judicially.

Khuong denied the allegations and said the situation reportedly involving two pairs of jeans worth $455 resulted from a "moment of inattention" and occurred in good faith.

But the members of the board also took issue with comments Khuong made to the paper, suggesting she went along with the non-judicial process, in order to avoid media attention and "wasting time in court."

"The bar took into consideration that the bâtonnière has to be unreproachable, because she is representing justice, she is representing protection of the public," said Lise Tremblay, CEO of the Quebec Bar.

"She has to support the administration of justice. No grey zone can be tolerated."

The decision to suspend Khuong wasn't easy, said Tremblay, adding the board will meet again late next week to decide on its next course of action.

Questions about lack of charges

Tremblay said the Quebec Bar could not comment on the Crown's decision not to lay charges in the case, but at least one criminal defence attorney said he finds the situation surprising.

"To me, it is unheard of when the alleged theft is of that magnitude," said Eric Sutton.

On its website, the province's justice ministry describes the non-judicial program as a means of "of dealing with certain offences in a particular way so as to better rationalize the use of resources allocated to the judicial system and not to unduly stigmatize the misconduct of an offender whose behaviour does not warrant judicial action."

Khuong, who is the spouse of former Quebec Justice Minister Marc Bellemare, took office as the head of the province's professional order of lawyers only June 18th.

At the time, La Presse says the Crown was dealing with her case, Khuong was vice-president of the Bar.

A spokesman for the province's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions indicated that the office would provide comment on the case Thursday.

Khuong could not be reached for comments on Wednesday's developments.