Former federal MP Craig Thomson has been given a three-month jail term after showing a “brazen arrogance” in spending union funds on prostitutes and personal expenses.
Thomson used the funds for personal greed and committed a gross betrayal of trust, magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg said.
“The offences exhibit a brazen arrogance and a sense of entitlement in dealing with the funds of members,” he said on Tuesday.
“Nothing has been put before me to suggest these offences were committed for any reason other than greed.”
Thomson was sentenced to 12 months in jail, with nine months wholly suspended for two years.
He had been found guilty of 65 dishonesty charges over the misuse of $24,538 while national secretary of the Health Services Union (HSU) between 2002 and 2007.
Thomson, 49, maintains he’s innocent and has been granted bail while he appeals his conviction and sentence.
“Obviously today wasn’t what we were looking for,” Thomson said as he left the Melbourne Magistrates Court.
“I’ve always maintained I’m not guilty in relation to the charges that I’ve been convicted of which is why I’ve appealed.
“Despite some misreporting, there has never been admissions of facts in relation to this.”
Rozencwajg said the fact the union funds were used to pay for sexual services did not affect the sentence, but it highlighted the selfish ends of Thomson’s behaviour.
He rejected a defence submission that Thomson’s crimes were opportunistic.
Rozencwajg said the offences were committed in a fashion that exhibited a lack of accountability and blatant dishonesty over a period of several years.
Rozencwajg said in his role of HSU national secretary, Thomson had been charged to protect and advance the interest of his members.
Instead, he used their funds in a manner which was a breach of trust of the highest order.
Rozencwajg stressed during sentencing it was important the equal justice applied to all people including politicians.
Taking public opprobrium or stigma into account when sentencing would seem to favour the well known above the lesser known, he said.
Thomson’s lawyers argued he should be spared jail as he has a major depressive illness and can never again enter public life because of the case.
The former Labor MP has agreed to repay the misused funds and has been formally ordered to do so by the magistrate.
He had faced up to five years in jail.
His appeal will be heard in the Victorian County Court in November.
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