New South Wales authorities are defending their handling of Craig Thomson, amid claims the MP was strip-searched after his arrest as a form of "humiliation and intimidation".
The independent MP's lawyer Chris McArdle has accused "two goons in gloves" of forcing his client to take all his clothes off after he was arrested and charged on the NSW Central Coast yesterday.
Thomson is facing 150 fraud charges in Victoria relating to his time as head of the Health Services Union.
Mr McArdle has lashed out at the way the former Labor MP was treated when taken into custody yesterday.
Thomson case: the legal angles
- Constitutional lawyers say it is highly unlikely the Thomson case will force Labor out of office before the election.
- The court case against Thomson is likely to take several months.
- Parliamentary commitments take precedence over court commitments, so Labor is still able to pass legislation.
- Under Section 14 of Parliamentary Privileges Act, a court cannot compel an MP to appear within five days of, or on, a parliamentary sitting day.
- To be disqualified from Parliament, Thomson would have to be convicted of a crime which carries a sentence of a year or more in jail, or declared bankrupt.
- If by-election required in Thomson's seat, it would be up to Speaker Anna Burke to set date.
- Prime Minister rejects Opposition suggestions she knew about Thomson's arrest before announcing election date.
"They shook out all his items of clothes as he took them off to make sure he didn't have any state secrets in his undies," he told ABC News Breakfast.
The ABC has been told Thomson was given an initial pat down by police before being transferred to a holding cell in the Wyong Local Court where he was strip-searched by corrective services officers.
NSW Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Severin has rejected suggestions the search was carried out as a form of intimidation, arguing that it is standard procedure for anyone who is arrested.
"That is a safety measure," Mr Severin told ABC local radio.
"People come in all kinds of states and situations into custody, and for their own safety and also of course for the safety of our staff, they are standard procedures.
"They apply to anybody. Anybody who comes into custody is subject to exactly the same procedure."
But Mr McArdle says authorities appear to have changed their story from yesterday.
"When we first said it they denied it had happened. They said 'No, that didn't happen'. Then that switched from 'No, didn't happen' to 'Oh, routine'. Which was it? Didn't happen, or routine?"
Media tipped off
Mr McArdle has repeated his suggestion that the "media circus" had been tipped off about Thomson's arrest before it happened.
Journalists and television cameras were stationed outside Thomson's electorate office when he was led out by police at 1:00pm (AEDT) yesterday.
A NSW police spokesman has strenuously denied suggestions media were provided advanced warning of the arrest.
The state's Police Minister Michael Gallacher says no one has raised the issue with him, and anyone with concerns should lodge a complaint with the Police Integrity Commission.
"[If] the lawyer and Mr Thomson do have concerns about the events of yesterday, that they avail themselves of the complaints process to deal with it formally and have the matter investigated," he told ABC NewsRadio.
"I'm not aware of the circumstances leading up to yesterday's events and I don't intend to second guess or have commentary in terms of how those events unfolded."
Thomson was granted bail to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court next week, subject to a number of conditions including that he provide 24 hours notice when travelling overseas or interstate - except in the course of his duties of an MP.
He is also banned from contacting any prostitutes whom he is alleged to have engaged for sexual services.
Mr McArdle says some of the charges relate to very small amounts of money, such as the purchase of an ice cream while on a work trip.
"Don't be disappointed though. All of the pervy stuff is there," he said.
"All of the stuff about prostitutes is in there, don't worry, so everyone can get their jocks off reading the charges still.
"One of the bail conditions is ... he is not allowed to go near any prostitutes he has paid money to in the past. Considering he hasn't paid any to any, no problem. He won't."
Thomson spoke briefly to reporters outside court yesterday, declaring that he would "vigorously defend" himself against the charges.
The civil action taken against Thomson over allegations he misused union funds was adjourned this morning and is likely to be stayed indefinitely.
Fair Work Australia is seeking to have Mr Thomson penalised over allegations he misused HSU funds.
But the Federal Court heard Fair Work regulations stipulate its civil case should be stayed once a criminal case is underway.
The matter has been adjourned till next month.
Thomson's arrest came just 24 hours after Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the date of the federal election, prompting suggestions from the Opposition that the events may be linked.
"It is a curious fact that this very, very surprising - indeed, historically unprecedented - announcement of an election seven-and-a-half months into the distance, took place literally 24 hours before Mr Thomson was arrested and charged," shadow attorney-general George Brandis told Lateline last night.
"Now, I'm not saying that there was a cause-and-effect relationship between those two things, but it is curious.
"The Prime Minister needs to make it clear that there was no such cause-and-effect relationship."
When asked by reporters yesterday whether she had any advance warning of Thomson's arrest, Ms Gillard replied: "Of course not".
The police decision to charge Thomson has renewed debate over the future of his parliamentary duties, with the Coalition calling on the Government to cancel out his vote on the floor of Parliament.
"If Craig Thomson tries to vote with us, we remove one of our members. We think Julia Gillard should do the same thing," Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne told AM.
But the Government is refusing to bow to the pressure, and has accused the Coalition of double standards.
"They did not apply that principle in relation to [Liberal] Senator Mary Jo Fisher who was not only charged but found guilty," Labor frontbencher Craig Emerson said.
"Mr Abbott said that they did not accept her vote. That's a lie. They did on multiple occasions."
Under the constitution, Thomson would be disqualified from being an MP if found guilty of any offence punishable by more than 12 months jail, although it is unlikely the court process will be finalised before the September 14 election.
Parliament is due to resume on Tuesday.