Reporters and cameramen swarm on Craig Thomson. He is quickly invisible from the outside of the clump, someone indicated by bristling boom mics rather than actually seen.
But inside the Lonsdale St swarm he speaks confidently. He lectures the media crushing in on him, and he smiles. Not too much. Just a bit.
“I have always maintained that I am not guilty in relation to the charges I am convicted of, which is why we have appealed,” he says. “Despite some misreporting, there has never been admissions of facts …”
Thomson could not be more confident or composed. This is not the look of a man who has the fear of prison gnawing his guts. You’d reckon at the dentist, he refuses anaesthetic. Incarceration becomes him.
It is less than two hours since he sat between two G4S guards in the Court 14 dock and Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg ordered him locked up. Not yet an hour since he was in custody.
Thomson was sentenced to three months jail, and nine more months suspended. He has served an hour, come back into court minus his pinstripe jacket and purple tie, and been bailed.
Mr Rozencwajg last week convicted him of 65 dishonesty charges, for ripping off the Health Services Union while he was secretary.
The court is over-full for the sentencing. The walls are lined with media and the curious.
Thomson’s lawyers have argued the crimes were impulsive and that depression and anxiety would make his jail time tougher. Friends wrote references. A note from his father and mother sought to have him excused.
Mr Rozencwajg begs to differ and cites Thomson’s “utter lack of remorse” and an “absolute void” where his responsibility should be.
“It matters not that many of the offences relate to the payment for sexual services but that does go to highlight the selfish personal ends for which these offences were committed,” he says.
Thomson looks at the magistrate and listens. He clasps his hands but not tightly. His expression does not change, though he blinks almost continually.
“I have concluded that a custodial sentence with some period of immediate confinement is warranted,” Mr Rozencwajg says to no appreciable reaction.
Reporters had a sweep going. Three months inside was at the high end. Most thought he would walk. They seem more surprised than Thomson.
A psychologist treated his anxiety and depression with breathing and relaxation techniques. Outside on bail, inside a crush, chased along the footpath, almost serene, Thomson is a hell of a reference.
He thanks his present wife, and the wife he had at the times when he paid for extra-marital sex on the union card.
The sentence, he says, “wasn’t all we were asking for”, though others would say that Thomson was definitely asking for it.
Before he leaves the court, a skinny, hard-looking man heads in towards the metal detectors.
To nobody and everyone waiting outside, he calls out that Thomson is a union dog. The man crudely wishes him the worst in jail.
He doesn’t know. Thomson is out already.
Most recently a senior reporter at the Herald Sun, Terry Brown has been a writer/journalist for half his life. As a columnist, colour writer, humorist and news hound, he has been in the thick of almost every major stories and events since 1987.