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Saturday, February 2, 2013
Handwriting expert on Thomson case
Craig (CROOKED)Thomson in Sydney.
AUSTRALIA'S pre-eminent handwriting expert is helping Victorian police as they try to prove fraud charges against former Labor MP Craig Thomson.
It is understood Paul Westwood, a principal of Forensic Document Services, has been hired to provide expert advice on key aspects of police evidence - including Mr Thomson's handwriting and samples of his fingerprints taken as he was arrested on Thursday.
But as the Opposition intensified its attack on Prime Minister Julia Gillard over the union scandal, it appeared Mr Thomson may be able to defer a court hearing - set down for next Wednesday - until later this month.
Parliamentary rules allow federal MPs and Senators to avoid appearing in court if the parliament is sitting within five days of the court appearance.
Mr Thomson is scheduled to appear in a Melbourne court next Wednesday, during which the 149 fraud charges laid by police will be tabled. They broadly follow the allegations outlined by Fair Work Australia in civil proceedings broughts against Mr Thomson.
The MP's lawyer, Chris McArdle, confirmed he was "obtaining advice from the Clerk of the Parliament and police are getting their own advice about whether Wednesday can or should go ahead".
If the matter is deferred, Mr Thomson would likely appear in court about a fortnight later - when parliament is in recess.
It is understood police will use Mr Westwood's forensic expertise to try and prove that Mr Thomson spent more than $7000 of Health Services Union funds to pay for prostitutes and escort services while he was the union's boss between 2002 and 2007.
Mr Thomson told former Sydney broadcaster Michael Smith in August 2011 that his signature had been forged, as he fended off claims of using HSU funds to pay for prostitutes.
But Mr Westwood, at the time, said he had "not found any evidence" of forgery after he was asked by Mr Smith to examine samples of the MP's handwriting.
It is expected Victorian police will also use samples of Mr Thomson's fingerprints as evidence when the matter goes to trial.
A spokesman for Victorian police said there would be "no further comment" on the allegations involving Mr Thomson as the matter is before the courts.
Mr McArdle yesterday hit out at prison guard "goons" who he claimed had forced Mr Thomson to strip on Thursday as part of "absolutely extraordinary intimidation of an innocent man".
But the prison officers' union said Mr Thomson had been treated in a "professional and respectful manner".
Anne Gardiner, general secretary of the Prison Officers Vocational Branch of the Public Service Association of NSW, said the officers involved in the search of Mr Thomson were "at all times acting in accordance with the Standard Operating Procedures of Corrective Services NSW and the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999".
Meanwhile, Opposition leader Tony Abbott has seized on the latest embarrassing revelations to reinforce his message that he will "clean up corrupt unions" if he wins office.
He criticised the Government for continuing to accept the MP's vote in the federal parliament. "We have refused Craig Thomson's vote ever since the Fair Work Australia report came down," he said.
"Every day that the government continues to accept his vote is a day when the government continues to be under this dreadful ethical pall of the Health Services Union."