Vic to outlaw 'grossly offensive' conduct

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A new Victorian offence criminalising grossly offensive public conduct is unlikely to be used by police but will close a gap in the system, the state's attorney-general says.

The proposed law, introduced to parliament on Wednesday, was developed in response to Melbourne's Eastern Freeway crash in April 2020 that killed four police officers.

Porsche driver Richard Pusey pleaded guilty to charges including outraging public decency by filming a dying Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor.

Senior Constable Kevin King, Constable Joshua Prestney and Constable Glen Humphris also died in the crash.

The charge of outraging public decency, which will be abolished under the new law, did not have a set penalty so sentencing judges could not properly assess the severity of the crime.

The new offence of engaging in conduct grossly offensive to community standards of behaviour will have a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment.

The offence will apply to conduct happening in a place where people can see or hear it publicly and will require the accused, or any reasonable person, to know their conduct is grossly offensive.

Being intoxicated or using profane language will be excluded from the offence.

"What we had in the Eastern Freeway tragedy was conduct that Victorians were appalled by," Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes told reporters on Wednesday.

"Police officers and the Director of Public Prosecutions found there wasn't really an offence that fit that behaviour to charge Mr Pusey.

"It's actually quite difficult for me to imagine another circumstance where this law is going to apply, but what it exposed was a gap in statute laws and I wanted to fix it."

There would be defences for good faith and reasonable conduct that was in the public interest, Ms Symes said.

"I want to offer comfort to the disability community and people with mental illness that certain behaviours can be tolerated in Victoria," she said.

"But there is a limit and this law will capture any of that behaviour that goes over that limit."

The government was not concerned police and prosecutors would overuse the new offence, Ms Symes said.

But there is concern the scope of the charge is too broad.

"It's subject to people's perceptions and biases and values," Melbourne Law School Associate Dean Eddie Cubillo told AAP. "Most of those people in public are low socio-economic.

"For me as an Indigenous person, predominantly those people are Indigenous and they're usually the ones who these laws capture.

"Tough on crime seems to be the way governments want to deal with these things rather than looking at the underlying issues."

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the state coalition would back the law, highlighting the campaign work of Leading Senior Constable Taylor's husband Stuart Schulze.

"I think it's a very good proposal," Mr Guy told reporters on Wednesday. "Praise to the attorney-general for responding to (Mr Schulze's campaign) because I think it's very important."

The amended bill will also defer to November 2023 the decriminalisation of public drunkenness.

The reforms were passed last year, in line with a recommendation made after a coronial inquiry into the 2017 death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day in police custody.

Ms Symes has previously attributed the delay to "stretched" health department resources, limiting its ability to finalise the state's health-based response.

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