Progress in bid for law to punish ‘diabolical acts’ like Richard Pusey’s, but lawyers urge caution

Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes will speak with the the state’s top judges and magistrates about a proposed law that criminalises outrageous behaviour similar to the acts of Richard Pusey who filmed a police officer’s dying moments.

The proposal has been put forward by Stuart Schulze, the husband of Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor, one of the four police officers killed on the Eastern Freeway last year by truck driver Mohinder Singh.

Stuart Schulze, husband of Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor.Credit:Darrian Traynor

Mr Schulze says the law has not kept pace following Pusey’s three-month sentence for filming the officer’s dying moments.

But experts in the law cautioned against introducing new legislation containing subjective definitions that could also potentially trap a broader range of conduct, such as bystanders who film incidents that then become useful to police investigations.

Senior Constable Taylor was one of four officers killed when they were hit by a truck on the Eastern Freeway after having pulled over Pusey’s Portsche minutes earlier for speeding at 149km/h. Pusey, who had traces of MDMA and cannabis in his system, was urinating on the side of the road when the truck hit the officers and stationary cars.

Pusey recorded video of Senior Constable Taylor’s injuries and the damaged police cars and was heard saying in the recordings: “That is f—ing justice. Absolutely amazing, that is f—ing amazing.”

He pleaded guilty to outraging public decency, an extremely rare charge that is an offence under common law, meaning it is a judge-made law not written into legislation.

The charge, as Pusey’s lawyers argued, does not validly exist in Australia, but developed from English law through cases of people who had exposed themselves in public. Pusey’s behaviour, the sentencing judge said, had no precedent in Australia.

Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor, one of four police officers killed in a horrific crash on the Eastern Freeway

Mr Schulze met the attorney-general on Monday as part of his campaign for outraging public decency to be written into Victorian law.

“We got a conviction, but we didn’t get justice … It was such a diabolical act and without precedent,” Mr Schulze said.

“Two clicks on your phone and it’s out there for the world to see.”

It is understood Ms Symes will speak with the heads of the state’s criminal courts about the proposal, but the government remains cautious.

The attorney-general said in a statement that she was considering Mr Schulze’s suggestion.

“We spoke in detail about how the changes in technology have made it easier for people to post offensive content online, and how it is difficult to draw the line between what does and doesn’t ‘outrage public decency’,” Ms Symes said.

“I will continue to keep Mr Schulze updated as we consider his suggestion.”

Victims of Crime Commissioner Fiona McCormack said the proposal warranted attention.

Richard Pusey (right) when arrested last year.Credit:Nine News

“Technology is developing at a rate of knots and unfortunately there are people who will use it in ways that are outright abusive and extremely traumatic to others,” Ms McCormack said.

“The law needs to keep pace with new technologies and behaviours so that victims don’t fall through the gaps.”

Defence lawyer Mel Walker, who sits on the Law Institute of Victoria’s criminal section executive committee, said the conduct was properly covered in the law.

She said the issue with criminalising such conduct was that it could have unintended consequences.

“There are lots of times where people record things that are also used in investigation and prosecutions, Bourke Street (the Bourke Street massacre) for example,” she said.

If the problem was with the uploading of offensive material onto the internet, then the responsibility lay with the platforms themselves, she said.

Offensive behaviour is a criminal offence in Victoria, but is usually used for urinating in public or swearing, but there’s also a federal offence of using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend.

The charge was used against a Queensland man, who stands accused of sharing the Christchurch massacre video on a messaging app, along with allegedly offensive commentary.

Monash University’s Dr Stephen Gray said he sympathised with Mr Schulze’s position and the visceral reaction to Pusey’s conduct, but said there would be issues with defining a vague offence in the law.

“And the fact it’s such a vague offence, then it could capture all kinds of unforeseeable situations from sexual conduct, to words that offend religious people, to legitimate artist expression,” Dr Gray said.

Mr Schulze said the law could be narrowed-down so it specifically encompasses filming coupled with commentary. Then it would be up to the courts, not lawmakers, to decide what constitutes outraging public decency, he said.

The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.

Most Viewed in National

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article