The magistrate said Craig Thomson’s frauds were brazenly arrogant, driven by a sense of entitlement, and deserved three months in jail.
But the former Labor MP maintains his innocence despite the court finding he illegally used union funds to pay for prostitutes and personal expenses.
Thomson was taken into custody on Tuesday after being sentenced to 12 months’ jail, with nine months wholly suspended, for $24,538 of frauds and thefts.
But the former Health Services Union (HSU) national secretary walked free on bail after about an hour, pending an appeal.
Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg had jailed Thomson because he used union money for personal greed and committed a gross betrayal of trust.
“The offences exhibit a brazen arrogance and a sense of entitlement in dealing with the funds of members,” Mr Rozencwajg said.
“Nothing has been put before me to suggest these offences were committed for any reason other than greed.”
Thomson maintained his innocence as he left the Melbourne Magistrates Court cells.
“Obviously today wasn’t what we were looking for,” Thomson told reporters.
“I’ve always maintained I’m not guilty in relation to the charges that I’ve been convicted of, which is why I’ve appealed.
“Despite some misreporting, there has never been admissions of facts in relation to this.”
The former Labor MP will appeal against both his conviction and sentence.
His 10-day appeal hearing will start on November 24, just days before the Victorian election.
Thomson, 49, was found guilty of 65 dishonesty charges over the misuse of $24,538 while the national secretary of the HSU between 2002 and 2007.
Mr Rozencwajg said the fact the union funds were used to pay for sexual services did not affect the sentence, but it highlighted the selfish ends of Thomson’s behaviour.
He rejected a defence submission that Thomson’s crimes were opportunistic.
Mr Rozencwajg said the offences were committed in a fashion which exhibited a lack of accountability and blatant dishonesty over a period of several years.
Mr Rozencwajg said in his role of HSU national secretary, Thomson had been charged to protect and advance the interest of his members.
Instead, he used their funds in a manner which was a breach of trust of the highest order.
Mr Rozencwajg stressed that it was important the equal justice applied to all people, including politicians.
He said taking public opprobrium or stigma into account when sentencing would seem to favour the well known above the lesser known.
Thomson’s lawyers argued he should be spared jail as he has a major depressive illness and can never again enter public life because of the case.
Thomson has agreed to repay the misused funds and has been ordered to do so by the magistrate.
He had faced up to five years in jail.