Craig Thomson heckled leaving court
Released on bail, Craig Thomson is heckled by a mystery man outside court as he tries to make a brief statement to waiting reporters.PT1M54S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-35fup 620 349 March 25, 2014
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Former federal MP Craig Thomson has been sentenced to 12 months' jail, with nine months suspended, but walked free from court on bail after lodging an appeal.
Thomson, 49, was on Tuesday convicted and jailed on 65 charges of fraud and theft for using Health Services Union funds for personal benefit, including paying for sex.
Former MP Craig Thomson outside the Melbourne Magistrates court after lodging an appeal against his conviction and sentence for fraud. Photo: Jason South
The nine months was suspended for two years.
Thomson's legal team launched an immediate appeal against conviction and sentence.
Less than an hour after he was led into custody, Thomson returned to the dock - without his tie and jacket - and was granted bail.
Former MP Craig Thomson leaves court after lodging an appeal against his conviction and sentence for fraud. Photo: Jason South JPS
His appeal will be heard on November 24 in the County Court and is listed to run for 10 days.
Thomson emerged from the court complex about an hour after being granted bail.
In a short statement, he said ‘‘today wasn’t what we were looking for’’, but that he had always maintained his innocence.
He said it was inappropriate for anyone - including media commentators and MPs - to comment on his case while the matter was before the courts.
He thanked his family and friends, "particularly my wife", and also his ex-wife.
He said he would be spending time with "my wife and my lawyers, in that order" before his appeal.
Thomson refused to take questions and left in a taxi.
The former member for Dobell showed no emotion as the sentence was read out in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday, other than blinking rapidly as magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg imposed his sentence.
Thomson was found guilty last month of 65 charges of theft and obtaining financial advance by deception in that he misappropriated $24,538.42 of Health Services Union funds while he was the union's national secretary between 2002 and 2007.
He was also found guilty of using the union funds after he left the HSU and was working as the Labor member for the NSW federal seat of Dobell.
Mr Rozencwajg described Thomson's offending as brazen, arrogant and displaying a "sense of entitlement". He said the offending displayed a high level of selfishness that showed Thomson was motivated only by greed.
"Nothing has been put to me to suggest these matters were not committed for anything other than personal greed," he said.
Mr Rozencwajg said Thomson had shown "blatant dishonesty" in his offending and displayed a breach of trust "of the highest order", given he had been elected to the position of national secretary.
He took into account Thomson's loss of career and the media intrusion on his life, but said an immediate jail term was the only sentence warranted.
He also imposed a conviction on 65 charges.
Outside court, Some of the HSU whistleblowers who helped bring Thomson’s offending to light gave mixed reactions to the sentence.
HSU secretary Kathy Jackson said she was sad Thomson had to be jailed and was more disappointed the union had failed to detect his offending.
Ms Jackson also had words with a handful of people, representing the Victorian Health Professionals Association, who were holding placards calling for Thomson to be jailed.
She said she was ‘‘sickened’’ by campaigns, as protesters had not been supportive of her and other whistleblowers when they first raised the allegations against Thomson.
Another HSU official, Marco Bolano, said he was personally happy to see Thomson jailed and would have been disappointed had he not been.
Mr Bolano - the man Thomson accused of setting him up, during his speech to Parliament of 2012 - said he had no interest in receiving an apology from the former federal MP.
He said he looked forward to the royal commission investigating the sort of union corruption that had protected Thomson and former HSU president Michael Williamson, who is awaiting sentence for rorting the union of almost $1 million.
The Health Services Union said in a statement on Tuesday that Thomson's sentence ''brings closure to the most difficult period in the national union's history''.
HSU acting national secretary Chris Brown said Thomson's actions were ''a gross betrayal of the trust placed in him and today's sentence ensures he is punished for that betrayal''.
''The HSU national executive has thoroughly reviewed governance procedures and put in place the highest standards possible to prevent this situation occurring again,'' Mr Brown said.
Thomson used the money to pay for sexual services and travel expenses, cigarettes and firewood for his then wife, Christa. He was also found to have made cash withdrawals from ATMs with the union-issued credit cards.
But Thomson was found not guilty of charges related to the purchase of in-house movies in hotel rooms while on work trips, and of some charges related to travel expenses for his then wife, Christa.
Thomson's sentence comes six years after the HSU first discovered the offending, five years after the then allegations were first aired publicly and more than one year after he first fronted a criminal court. He went to trial before Mr Rozencwajg in December last year.
Thomson's lawyer, Greg James, QC, last week called for his client to be spared a jail term given the public humiliation he had suffered during the past five years, and because a stint in prison would be onerous for a man with depression and other health problems, and a young family.
Thomson is the father of two young daughters. Mr James said Thomson's career had been ruined and he now had little chance of returning to public life.
But lead prosecutor Lesley Taylor, SC, said last week that anything less than a jail term would be an inadequate sentence and that he deserved prison for his ''continuous and sustained breach of trust'' and for conduct that had been ''arrogant in the extreme''.
Thomson had agreed to repay the HSU the money he misappropriated, the court was told last week.
Thomson lost his seat in last year's election, standing as an independent.