NSW Police engineered a situation where Thomson needed to be strip searched, reports Peter Wicks, and were unlucky not to keep him in gaol overnight.

ThomsonArrest
Thomson being paraded for the press pack after yesterday's "show arrest".

SOME WOULD SAY that politics has become a sport made for spectators; some would even go so far as to say it has become a blood sport — and perhaps this is true.

Unfortunately, if one looks at the public perception of politicians, and how much trust they have for their elected members, it becomes apparent that this sad spectacle of a sport is turning off its audience. Big time.

This is not meant as a call on which side of the political playing field blame for this lies − I’ll let the trolls debate that on Twitter − it is just an observation.

Yesterday was, of course, the first full day in "campaign" mode following the announcement of a Federal Election — and what a day it turned out to be. Those of us wondering whether this campaign was going to be fought in the gutter or fought on merits had their question answered yesterday with the arrest of Craig Thomson at his electoral office.

Yesterday, at approximately 1 pm, Craig Thomson was arrested by a team of five police backed up by two further police waiting back at the car. He was arrested inside his electoral office and paraded out for the waiting media.

The arrest was made for 150 charges of fraud in an investigation being conducted by Victoria Police. Officers from the NSW Fraud Squad made the arrest with members of the Victorian Police in attendance.

Some would wonder if after all the calls for new investigations into Thomson from Shadow Attorney General George Brandis to the NSW Police Commissioner resulted in nothing, maybe Brandis’ begging still carries some weight with the Victorian Coalition Government.

The timing of this arrest seems incredibly convenient, not only straight after an election is called, but also during Tony Abbott's speech at the press club. It was as if the whole event was being stage-managed, along the lines of “We will now cross to the NSW Central Coast live for the Thomson arrest” then “Back to you Tony...”

Just over a week ago, I wrote a post about how slow the police were moving in their investigations; it appears they may have been listening, however I was hoping for something a little more substantial.

IceCream
Abbott yesterday, looking like the cat who's got the cream.

There are, however, other factors than just the validity of the charges to take into consideration.

Firstly, the arrest itself seemed unusual in its circumstances and how it came about. Victoria Police claimed that Thomson had been asked by them to surrender himself last year prior to Christmas and a warrant issued for his arrest. Both Thomson and his lawyer, Chris McCardle, strenuously deny this claim, saying that all they asked of Thomson was to help them with their enquiries — something he would have had to travel interstate at Christmas to do. So, which side should we believe?

I don’t pretend to be an expert in law enforcement, but I reckon that, if I was going to arrest someone, I would not give them over a month's notice that I was going to do it — but that’s just me. I can assume from yesterday's events that when laying a charge involving using a credit card to purchase ice cream in Victoria, it takes a team of seven armed officers and a media horde to bring the perpetrator in — particularly after giving them over a month to get their esky packed and their passport in order.

One only hopes that when the Victorian Police finally decide to pull their finger out in the ongoing investigation into Kathy Jackson that they don’t give her quite so much notice.

In his press conference yesterday, Col Dyson, the head of NSW State Crime Command’s Fraud and Cybercrime Squad also seemed unsure about the alleged warrant from Vic Police — not confirming the warrants validity, instead saying “I believe” whenever discussing its content. If someone in that position chooses his words so carefully, maybe we shouldn’t make any hasty judgment calls regarding the warrant − which is yet to be produced publicly − and about what it actually says.

There has also been talk of whether police themselves have acted unlawfully in this arrest. Section 14 of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 tells us that an MP cannot be arrested within five days of attending parliament.

Despite the advice given to many members of the media, including Independent Australia that this law was applicable, and which was included in last night's post by David Donovan,we can now confirm that this act appears to apply to civil arrests only, not criminal arrests. We apologise for any confusion. However this once again throws up the question of this being a civil matter rather than criminal.

Another interesting point, that was first reported on Independent Australia,was the strip search of Craig Thomson by NSW Corrective Services after his arrest. It seems that humiliation was the order of the day here, and it begs the question — if they can do this to a Federal Member Of Parliament, what hope does the average John or Jane Doe have?

One also wonders if the purpose of the strip search was to look for distinguishing features to help verify the story of an "honest" prostitute, who may later appear. This has been suggested by many followers of the case.

No matter what the reason, Corrective Services found no hidden guns, no drugs, no explosive devices, and certainly no receipts from brothels tucked away where the sun don’t shine.

Allegations of political motives certainly seem justified when we note that police give former HSU boss Michael Williamson was given 24 hours to appear at Maroubra Police Station to be charged for allegations against him. Yes, despite these charges and allegations being astronomical in comparison with Thomson's, Williamson was able to maintain his dignity and walk into the police station without escort. On the other hand, Thomson was arrested without notice, before a writhing media circus and paraded in front of the cameras surrounded by detectives; I’m surprised they didn’t handcuff him for added effect.

NSW Police have today confirmed to me in writing that Michael Williamson was not subjected to a strip search, despite his charges being far more serious than Thomson's.

I wonder if former Liberal Senator Mary Jo Fisher was subjected to a strip search when she was charged in South Australia for theft and assault?

Former Liberal senator and part-time thief Mary-Jo Fisher outside court. Was she strip searched?
Former Liberal senator and part-time thief Mary Jo Fisher outside court. Was she strip searched?

After speaking with a Corrective Services spokesperson today, it can be revealed that a very different approach to the charges and bail was used by NSW Police to ensure Thomson was strip searched.

In Michael Williamson's case, bail was granted by police so that Corrective Services are not involved. In Thomson's case, bail for Thomson was refused by police, although it was granted shortly afterwards by a magistrate.

Bail is normally not granted to someone who is considered a flight risk. Considering that, if Victorian Police are to be believed, Thomson had over a month's notice of being arrested, it seems ludicrous in the extreme that he would be considered a flight risk. If police refuse bail, then the Corrective Services temporarily take custody of the accused before a magistrate determines bail.

The Corrective Services spokesperson also confirmed that the timing of the bail refusal for Thomson by police should have resulted in Thomson spending the night in gaol. Corrective Services Officers apparently worked after the cutoff time for processing − in their own time − as they felt sympathy for Thomson and wished to spare him the humiliation of a night in gaol. Bail was of course granted by a magistrate within a short time, minutes in fact.

This new information will surely add fuel to the fire that this was a politically motivated arrest. We all know how bad it would look for Thomson and the Government if the media had been able to show Thomson in a jail cell, even if it was on a technicality. Given that the bail process was clearly engineered to ensure a strip search, one must also presume that it was engineered to try to have Thomson in a cell overnight.

One also wonders about the integrity of both the NSW and the Victorian Police Force, and the political pressure that may have been exerted by the Coalition Police Ministers in both states. It seems that the Coalition have the Police running their election campaign for them at the moment, so perhaps the Police Integrity Commission should look into this matter.

I have asked NSW Police Minister Michael Gallacher in writing if he was in any way involved in the timing, or involved in any way in yesterday's arrest. Predictably, I have yet to receive a response.

NSW Police Minister, the Liberal Party''s Michael Gallacher - has he been pulling strings?
NSW Police Minister, the Liberal Party's Michael Gallacher — has he been pulling strings?

Maybe it's just me, but I also considered it strange that the magistrate made it a condition of bail that Thomson not make contact with "anybody he has paid for sex". Does this not seem like the presumption of guilt? Isn't the law supposed to work the other way — like the innocent until proven guilty way?

Despite all of this, there were some pieces of good news to come out of yesterdays grand opera.

Those wondering whether the election campaign was going to be a mudslinging competition, certainly know now how the Coalition appear to be steering their campaign with their absence of policy. Now that allegations regarding MP’s sexual lives are something the Coalition apparently seem to think is open for public debate, can we now look forward to some frank debate on the sex lives of other MP’s — like, say, Christopher Pyne, Alex Hawke, and even Sophie Mirabella, rather than just Thomson and Slipper? That could be very illuminating indeed.

The other good news to come out of yesterday is that we now know that Kathy Jackson, who is, of course, under investigation by Vic Police is still in the country and hasn’t fled.

Yet.

Kathy proved yesterday, when interviewed on 2UE, that saying “Ya know” a thousand times does not make you sound like you know much at all. Her interview with James Morrison also showed that if you aren’t prepared to make ridiculous, bold, and unsubstantiated statements regarding corruption of a government, a good shock jock will help fill in the gaps for you.

Kathy also told right-wing blogger Michael Smith that:

“all these good people, people like Marco Bolano in Victoria who’s honest as the day is long and a hard-working person lost out in an election...”
Kathy Jackson: selective memory or amnesia?
Kathy Jackson: selective memory or amnesia?

These good people Kathy refers to, took a Union and almost bankrupted it. There appears to have been a lot of hard work done in spending the members' money on their own self interests, not much work done for members. Kathy neglects to mention Honest Marco’s court intervention order, or his breaking of that order for stalking, harassing, and intimidating a woman he was opposing.

Kathy also neglects to mention the 40 boxes of evidence, some of which has been shown and reported here, being combed through by Victorian detectives. She neglects to mention her own credit card expenditure on her three HSU credit cards that dwarfs that of Thomson. She suffers amnesia when it comes to her former husband's alleged brothel habits and other spending of members funds with wanton abandon.

Perhaps Jackson's selective memory is why she only seems to be taken seriously by the extreme right-wing elements of the press.

After all is said and done, as a fellow lover of good ice cream, I can sympathise with Thomson on that charge at least. I have often said in jest: “This ice cream is so good it should be a crime”.

In Victoria, apparently it is.

Editor's note: I has been reported that Craig Thomson has launched defamation action against NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell after comments he made today:

(Read IA's full Jacksonville investigation by clicking here.)

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