NT teen’s inquest scope argument to resume


An inquest into the death of an Aboriginal teenager shot dead by a Northern Territory police officer could be derailed as the row over its scope and the evidence handed over to the coroner continues.

Kumanjayi Walker, 19, died after Constable Zachary Rolfe shot him three times during an attempted arrest in Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs, on November 9, 2019.

The Alice Springs inquest explores 54 issues relating to the life of the Warlpiri man and the actions of the police before and after he was shot.

But lawyers for Const Rolfe last week objected to 13 of the issues explored, saying they were not relevant to the purposes of the investigation.

David Edwardson KC said they also had the potential to undermine the verdict of Const Rolfe’s March trial for the murder of Mr Walker, which found him not guilty.

He said the coroner should respect the Supreme Court jury’s decision and not look into the issues.

“The contested categories of evidence are red herrings. They have all the hallmarks of a traveling royal commission,” the lawyer said on Friday.

“With all the goodwill in the world, the introduction of this evidence is so remote and remote that it will, in our view, demonize Zachary Rolfe, which is particularly offensive.”

Issues include Constable Rolfe’s honesty when he applied to join the Northern Territories Police and whether drugs or illicit drugs impacted his conduct on the night of the shooting.

The coroner also plans to investigate Const Rolfe’s use of force, disciplinary proceedings against him and whether racism is a problem within the department.

Mr Edwardson also asked whether Coroner Elisabeth Armitage should continue to preside over the inquest after Northern Territories Police shared a full version of her coroner’s inquest report with her department, but refused access to others. parts.

He said it could affect his impartiality in carrying out his duties, which includes determining whether the police coroner’s inquest followed due process and was fair.

‘The Northern Territory Police have to make a very thoughtful and serious decision,’ he said.

“If, as they currently do, they maintain the claim of solicitor-client privilege and assume that the mere provision of the unredacted report to the coroner does not amount to a waiver, then the issue of disqualification must necessarily arise.”

After hearing Mr Edwardson’s comments on Friday, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency solicitor Phillip Boulten SC said it was a “concerning matter”.

He said his team would review the situation “very carefully” over the weekend and make submissions when the hearing continues in Alice Spring on Monday.

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