Former Labor MP Craig Thomson was sentenced today in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, after which he immediately appealed. Peter Wicks from Wixxyleaks considers a very troubling trial.
TODAY IN MELBOURNE MAGISTRATES COURT, Craig Thomson faced the Magistrate and the media once again.
Magistrate Rozencwajg handed down a one year sentence (with nine months being suspended) to Thomson in a packed court room. Thomson immediately appealed and was bailed.
Thomson had been found guilty of several counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception in court last month, despite those charges not being on the list of charges at the time of the trial — something that has baffled many.
At the start of the trial, Magistrate Rozencwajg had told both the Prosecution and the Defence teams that the whole case was about the matter of authorisation. Upon hearing that, the Defence based their case on proving authorisation, however in his findings after the case had been argued, the magistrate said he chose not to take the matter of authorisation into account at all.
Then, between the trial and sentencing, the police were given permission to “reword” the charges before sentencing. This effectively created new charges that Thomson would not be given a chance to defend before being sentenced on them.
Thomson, was now facing sentencing for these new undefended charges and was in court to hear the sentence handed down. The total dollar figure relating to the charges is $24,538.42, which Thomson has agreed to repay.
Thomson's barrister Greg James QC had last week urged Magistrate Rozencwajg to not sentence Thomson to prison as he has suffered enough after his very public ordeal.
James had also claimed that Thomson is suffering from a major depressive illness.
Today the Magistrate ignored those pleas.
Thomson has spent the best part of four years being attacked in the media and being turned into a punchline for any joke involving brothels, prostitutes, or even credit cards. He has suffered humiliation after humiliation.
The attack from the media on Thomson has been relentless and often seemed to be more about a vendetta than straight reporting of facts.
There have been so many cases of sloppy journalism, deliberate printing of lies, distortion of facts and plain negligence in the media trial of Craig Thomson, it has kept me busy for years.
It is very clear it hasn’t stopped.
The way the last week's events were reported in the press, one could have easily assumed Thomson had admitted through his lawyer to what he had been accused of and was throwing himself at the mercy of the court.
There were reports of admissions of his client using union funds to pay for escort services from Thomson’s counsel, Greg James QC.
What the mainstream press ignored is that this is a sentencing hearing is not a part of trial as such. Thomson had no options to plead innocence as he had already been found guilty.
The so-called admissions were actually submissions based on the findings of guilt by the court.
For the layman, they are scenarios that are offered up as explanations in order to reduce a sentence that is based on behaviour that the court has assumed as factual. What they are not are admissions of guilt.
Those reporting events seemed to have forgotten that Thomson still had the option of an appeal open to him and those reporting incorrectly about admissions from Thomson would have their articles exposed as either enormous errors or intentional misrepresentations of events should Thomson appeal the charges.
Today they have been reminded.
Thomson has appealled both the sentence and the charges.
Why would someone admit to something and then launch an appeal?
I assume the media will distance themselves from their earlier comments — although, based on earlier reporting, I won't be holding my breath.
Last week Prosecutor Lesley Taylor SC stated last week that anything less than jail would be "manifestly inadequate”.
Taylor went on to say that Thomson had shown no remorse for his actions. It has been my experience that most people don’t tend to show remorse for something they claim they haven’t done and seek to appeal against.
Personally, I always thought that a jail sentence would be quite perverse even if Thomson is, in fact, guilty and had chosen not to appeal his sentence. Not for the reasons that Greg James QC has spoken of, however, as if there are any mental health issues to speak of they should have been brought up years ago and, if he is guilty after all, then the years of attacks from the media could have been avoided by an earlier admission, say around three years ago.
A jail sentence would be perverse, because the attack on Thomson was led by a few people who a far from blameless in the area of public probity.
Tony Abbott, for instance, has ripped off the taxpayer for a similar amount of money to what Thomson is accused of, although some of it has since been repaid after it was exposed to the public. Abbott performed his alleged crimes via expense and travel claims for attending weddings, going on fun runs and cycling events and even for the marketing of his book Battlelines.
Apparently, on Planet Abbott, the public should foot the bill for these things.
George 'bigots' rights' Brandis, who interfered with the police investigation by continually pushing them to make a case against Thomson, was pressured to finally pay back to the taxpayer the money he claimed to attend the wedding of former shock jock and right-wing blogger Michael Smith. His expense claims for books to fill his giant taxpayer-funded office shelves also have raised many eyebrows.
Speaking of Michael Smith, he was there in court last week to see the event unfold accompanied by none other than Kathy Jackson and Marco Bolano — two others who have led the attack on Thomson.
These three showing up together like the three musketeers is a clear indication of Smith’s bias in the case and also exposes the political leanings of Jackson and Bolano.
Should Jackson or Bolano (or his partner for that matter) run in the upcoming HSU elections, members would be wise to remember them accompanying Smith – who is a notorious cheerleader for the right-wing ideologues who are seeking to destroy both union movement and workers rights to court – in a desperate bid to attract a camera or a microphone.
Jackson is yet to be held to account for the allegations of vast amounts of spending of union members funds whilst she was secretary — amounts that make the allegations against Thomson seem like pocket-money by comparison.
Jackson and Bolano were in court again today to hear the sentence handed down to Thomson — Jackson making the interstate trip for the occasion and Bolano taking time out from his busy schedule of being on worker's compensation at the taxpayers' expense.
There was some good news for Thomson last week however, the media attention was somewhat diverted away from his sentencing hearing by the shocking allegations of corruption against Arthur Sinodinos.
The allegations against Sinodinos have served to highlight the hypocrisy of those in the Coalition and, in particular, Tony Abbott.
Abbott and the Coalition, you may recall, wanted Craig Thomson removed from parliament as soon as the allegations were made against him — even before charges were laid.
With Arthur Sinodinos, it is different apparently.
In fact, he has the total backing and support of Tony Abbott and the Coalition.
Allegations against Thomson total $24,538.42 — Sinodinos allegedly stood to make a tidy $20 million. Rather than Thomson’s alleged $24 grand over 5 years — Sinodinos was collecting $200,000 every year
Those expecting to see another childish bolt from parliament by Liberal Senators when Sinodinos casts a vote like Abbott and Pyne did in 2012 need not hold their breath waiting — tainted votes are OK when they come from a Liberal MP apparently.
The ICAC investigation into Sinodinos will take a while to run its course and, just like Thomson, all of the Liberal MP’s that are now facing ICAC should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
Innocent until proven guilty is a concept that Craig Thomson has only been able to dream about. Those who profit from his trial by media have not allowed this basic human right be granted to Thomson in any way.
In fact, contrary to what Lesley Taylor SC may claim, it is the press that has shown no remorse when it comes to reporting falsehoods, and the justice system that has shown no remorse for allowing the charges to be changed and denying Thomson the civil right he has to defend himself against the charges.
Let’s hope, next time around, his basic human rights are respected.
Guilty or not, everybody deserves that right. Even the worst Nazi war criminals were given the opportunity to defend the charges against them without them being changed after the event.
No matter what you think of Thomson personally, the legal process that he has been forced to endure should alarm anybody who believes in both justice and the possibility of a fair trial.
Today, those in the media who reported events falsely last week were exposed, however it remains to see if they will learn a lesson from it. Given the history of reporting from those in the mainstream on this case, I have my doubts.
They can be measured by the tonne.
You can follow Peter Wicks on Twitter @madwixxy.
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