Rolfe loses bid to block inquest questioning

Zachary Rolfe faces his final day of questioning at an inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker.

Zachary Rolfe faces his final day of questioning at an inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker. Photo: AAP

A former Northern Territory police officer has lost an appeal and can be forced to answer a coroner’s questions about the fatal shooting of an Indigenous teenager.

Ex-constable Zachary Rolfe shot Kumanjayi Walker, 19, three times during a bungled outback arrest in Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs, on November 9, 2019.

An inquest into the Warlpiri man’s death has been repeatedly disrupted by legal stoushes about whether Mr Rolfe and another officer have the legal right to refuse to provide evidence to the coroner.

Coroner Elisabeth Armitage previously determined that witnesses could not decline to answer questions by invoking the penalty privilege, which Mr Rolfe did when he first appeared at the inquest in November.

The coroner’s ruling was initially upheld by the NT Supreme Court and has now been reaffirmed by the Court of Appeal.

It found that the continued operation of penalty privilege would contradict or diminish the operation of coronial legislation

Mr Rolfe’s legal team argued the coroner could not protect him from potential disciplinary action stemming from his evidence and the penalty privilege protections remained available to him as a common law right.

The effect of Wednesday’s ruling is that Judge Armitage should now be able to compel Mr Rolfe to answer uncomfortable questions about racist text messages that the inquest was told he sent.

He is also likely to be asked about the night he killed Mr Walker, his alleged misuse of police body-worn cameras, excessive use of force and a falsified NT police recruitment application.

In March last year, a jury found Mr Rolfe not guilty of murdering Mr Walker, causing outrage in the Indigenous man’s grieving community.

The inquest is due to resume in October but will not wrap up until at least March next year.


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