Vic emergency bash laws 'paradoxical'

Kaitlyn Offer

Being drunk, high or psychosocially immature will not spare Victorians who bash emergency workers from jail under an Andrews government crackdown.

But legal groups say it is paradoxical a government spending billions on family violence and mental health does not want to recognise its impact on offenders.

Assaults on police, paramedics, firefighters, or emergency department medicos are to become category one offences - the same as murder and rape.

The government will also get rid of substance impairment and psychosocial immaturity as special reasons to be exempt from mandatory jail time and life circumstances of offenders, including traumatic childhoods, will have less mitigating weight in court.

"A large proportion of those in jail have suffered family violence or sexual abuse in their own lives and what we're doing is perpetuating this, particularly where their further separated from their children," Sentencing Advisory Council chair, Arie Freiberg told AAP.

"The irony of these cases in the light of spending billions on family violence and recognising it and mental illness is a really important point."

The Law Institute of Victoria is seeking an urgent meeting with Attorney-General Martin Pakula over the changes, with president Belinda Wilson saying she "seriously questions that these assaults should be in the same category as murder and rape".

"Everyone deserves the right to be safe in their work environment, however, Victoria can't take a 'one size fits all' approach," she said.

"There are often serious mental health issues involved in these vicious assaults on emergency workers."

Public and union pressure mounted on the state Labor government after the quashing of jail terms for Amanda Warren, 33, and Caris Underwood, 22 who assaulted paramedic Paul Judd in 2016 after a day-long alcohol and cannabis binge.

Warren and Underwood were originally jailed for six months and four months respectively, but last week County Court Judge Barbara Cotterell said their "appalling" childhoods and young families meant the terms should not apply.

Premier Daniel Andrews defended the strong-arm tactic to tackle emergency worker assaults.

"I'm all for providing support for people ... I don't however accept that everyone who has had a difficult background behaves in this way," he told reporters.

"We will always look to invest more in mental health, look to invest more to those who are vulnerable and need that care, but nothing can be taken to excuse this sort of behaviour."

The government plans on introducing the laws in the second sitting week of June, will set up a reference group with union representatives and also give the Director of Public Prosecutions greater appeal powers .

Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said emergency workers had been walking "with a target on their back" and the changes removed that.

"At the moment what we're seeing is excuses that really simply don't cut it for the sorts of behaviour our members are experiencing on the street," he said.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy believes the changes don't go far enough and still allow too much judicial discretion.

But an opposition private members bill on the issue was voted down on Tuesday.