Shortly one of the most heavily publicised legal cases in Australia since the Lindy Chamberlain trial will come to a close.
December 15th is the day of reckoning for Craig Thomson as the judgement on his appeal is due to be handed down, and with a bit of luck so to the trial by media will be over.
The appeal was against convictions of obtaining financial advantage by deception. The total of these convictions amounting to approximately $24K over a 5 year period.
These convictions were based on Thomson’s use of his union credit card and covered a range of expenditure from cash withdrawals to taking his wife away to a union function on the odd occasion.
One thing that has always puzzled me about this case is the word “deception”.
For example a large part of the case involves Thomson’s wife accompanying him on business trips. They weren’t exactly raking in the frequent flier points, with Thomson’s wife accompanying Craig on seven trips over five years. However I do wonder who was actually being deceived, after all this expenditure was not hidden in any way whatsoever.
In fact there is nothing in the charges that show anybody being deceived from what I can tell, there are no disguised payments or expense forms or cheque requisitions claiming to be for something that they are not, such as staff benefits or uniforms for a child care centre that has no uniforms.
Last time Thomson was in court there was confusion over the difference between admitted facts and admissions. Facts admitted to court for evidence does not necessarily mean all parties agree on them.
This time around there is confusion around lies and Thomson’s attempts to save himself embarrassment.
In keeping with the tradition of bias and misrepresentattion News Ltd stated this in their online article
“Former MP Craig Thomson lied about using a union credit card to pay for prostitutes because he was ashamed, his barrister says.”
The quotation marks are because I am quoting News Ltd, not because News Ltd are quoting Greg James QC. In fact James said no such thing at all.
What Greg James was referring to in court is that the prosecution had in their evidence a section entitled “Lies”. This contained allegations of lying to the media including the Laurie Oakes interview.
The point that James was making is that even if there were lies to the media which could have been done for a number of reasons including trying to save embarrassment, they are irrelevant to the case. It was not any form of admission of Thomson lying, it is merely pointing out that it is a waste of money and court time to debate the alleged lies, they may as well debate global warming as discuss the interpretation of media coverage of Thomson’s words. The fact that this topic is even spoken about at all tells us that the prosecution has designed their case for media consumption rather than any form of justice.
If Craig Thomson had done the Laurie Oakes interview and introduced himself as Barrack Obama it would still have no relevance to this court case at all and would not make him any more or less guilty or change whether or not he had authorisation to use a credit card bearing his name..
In court a mockery was made of the prosecutions alleged facts that had been admitted into evidence. One such example and one that shows the difference between admitted facts and admissions is the trip to Adelaide.
The fact that Thomson and his former wife went to Adelaide paid for with union funds is a fact that has been admitted, the rest is speculation.
The trip to Adelaide Thomson has explained as a visit with the psychologists association. The prosecution’s case that because the SA Secretary of Branch 3 of the union was unaware of Thomson’s visit it must have been a personal trip. This is pure speculation not fact and in many ways fanciful.
A fact not highlighted by the prosecution is that the Adelaide Branch Secretary in question did not get along with the psychologists association at all, hence the reason for not being involved.
Another part of the prosecution’s case that seemingly defies logic is how they claim the bank has been defrauded by Thomson’s use of the credit card.
If Thomson uses a credit card with his name on it, his signature on the back and the bank is repaid what is spent on it, then how is the bank being defrauded? This is legal idiocy and frankly these charges should have been dumped long ago and the person responsible for them sacked. If the credit card issuer had a claim I’m sure it would make one.
However if the matter didn’t involve the credit card issuer, then the legal matter would be between Thomson and the union making it a civil matter which would not have played out so well for those seeking to take political advantage of the situation. It would seem a lot of creative thinking has gone into making this a criminal matter rather than a civil one.
I am sure Thomson would have relished the opportunity to argue out every aspect of this case in a trial rather than have to instead base his freedom on the sole matter of authorisation. However this was not possible.
In a case where you have had senior politicians proclaiming your guilt and a mainstream media baying for your blood the burden of proof is put firmly on Thomson’s shoulders. It no longer becomes a matter of being proven guilty, with all of the political and media pressure one has to prove their innocence.
Unfortunately for Thomson to argue every aspect of the case on its merits would mean a six-week trial and around a $1 Million legal bill, who has that sort of cash lying around? We aren’t all Kathy Jackson after all…
Therefore Thomson was forced into the far cheaper option of arguing based on the authority issue as if authority was proven it covered all of the charges.
Thomson faces a prosecution with the unlimited funds of Victorian taxpayers at its disposal.
The media coverage of this appeal has been far lighter than in previous cases which must make Thomson feel better and the prospect of Labor victory in the Victorian election may also mean less political pressure on the matter.
So now Thomson waits until December 15th to find out how this drama will finally finish.
Meanwhile Thomson’s family just hope that Craig will be home for Christmas.