Police officer acquitted of fatal shooting of teenager must testify at coroner’s inquest – Crime

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Former Northern Territory police officer Zachary Rolfe is required by law to attend Coronial inquest into the fatal shooting of Aboriginal teenager Kumanjayi Walker when it continues next week, despite his attempts to argue that he should not attend because the coroner is biased against him and the evidence he will have to give is subject to legal client privilege.

The inquest, which is shaping up to be the most expensive in the Northern Territory, has been marked by delays and distractions, many of which have centered on whether Zachary Rolfe and another police officer had the legal right to refuse to give evidence.

Rolfe must attend and testify

The Coroner’s Court, led by Coroner Elisabeth Armitage, previously ruled that witnesses could not refuse to answer questions under privilege, which Mr Rolfe did when he first appeared at the inquest.

Her decision was first upheld by the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory and again earlier this year by the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeal.

A lost appeal against an evidence directive means Mr Rolfe may be forced to answer the coroner’s questions about his killed 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker in Alice Springs on 9 November 2019.

A coroner can ask a wide range of questions

The coroner has the power to ask questions on a wide range of matters, including Mr. Rolf’s racist text messages, his abuse body-worn camerasother incidents involving use of excessive forceas well as an allegedly falsified police recruitment application – all of which have been widely reported in the media since the original trial.

No power to independently bring criminal charges

While A Coronial Inquest may recommend criminal charges be adjudicated against the individual, after reviewing and considering all the evidence and submitting its final report and recommendations, the Division of Public Prosecutions will make the final decision regarding prosecution.

The principle of double jeopardy

It is important to note that Zachary Rolfe was found not guilty and cannot be tried for the double murder of Kumanjayi Walker. except in extremely limited circumstances where fresh and convincing evidence comes to light.

This is known as the principle of double jeopardy which is based on the notion that a person who has been tried and acquitted should be able to get on with his life without the threat of further prosecution.

It also means that Mr Rolfe can confidently attend the Coronial Inquest with little or no fear of being prosecuted a second time.

Acquitted of murder

Zachary Rolfe was acquitted of murder, manslaughter and complicity in an act of violence caused the death of Kumanjaya Walker after the Supreme Court trial in 2022.

He was seen having a beer at a beach club in Bali with an ex SAS soldier Ben Roberts-Smith September in a photo posted on social networks.

The photo was posted on the private account of a serving Queensland police officer but found its way into the mainstream.

Queensland Police said they would launch an investigation whether the post breached QPS guidelines – the outcome of this internal investigation is unknown. And it is unclear whether Mr Rolfe is still overseas.

Here in Australia over the past few months, Zachary Rolf’s legal team have continued to try to avoid having to appear at the Coronial Inquest. A suppression order on allegations of bias by Zachary Rolfe asking Coroner Elisabeth Armitage to step down from her role in the Kumanjayi Walker inquest was lifted this week.

Ask the coroner to back off

In information now publicly available, Mr Rolfe claimed the impartiality of the inquiry was compromised by Ms Armitage’s participation in Aboriginal ceremonies at Yuendum.

However, others, including the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), have defended Ms Armitage’s decision to have her face painted by Mr Walker’s mother at Yuendum, saying the act was one of “basic civility and respect”.

Importantly, the coroner’s court had already heard the community meetings and interviews that took place at Yuendum were not part of the formal evidence the coroner uses to determine findings and recommendations.

However, Mr. Rolf’s legal team suggested that an investigator’s two-day visit to Yuendum during the proceedings last year gave the impression of bias against Mr Rolf.

Ms Armitage is said to be considering Mr Rolfe’s request to appeal and will make a decision sometime next week.

However, given that he has been compelled to testify and his appeal against this decision has failed, he is required to do so. Failure to appear may result in his arrest.

Mr Rolfe also accused Ms Armitage of colluding with the police to get him fired from the army. He disputes his dismissal from the NT Police earlier this year, which took place after releasing a lengthy statement criticized the former police commissioner, the coroner and the ongoing inquest.

It’s been a long road to find answers for Kumanjayi Walker’s family and community. He was fatally shot three times in 2019, during a botched arrest and subsequent trials were hampered by pandemic lockdowns.

Police report caustic ‘militarized police’

Earlier this year, the NT Police finally released a report on the death of Kumanjayi Walker.

In it, North American Police Chief David Proctor lambasted the culture of North American police forces at the time of Kumanjayi Walker’s death and pointed to the “militarization” of police in North America.

In the decade to May 2020, he said, 192 of NTPOL’s 718 recruits – about 26.4% – were ex-ADF personnel.

“There is a vast over-representation of ex-servicemen recruited into the Northern Territory Police who are not proportionately representative of the population of the community they serve,” Proctor wrote.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the issue. Professional advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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