Rolfe murder trial: preparations advance

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By KIERAN FINNANE

A number of police officers who may give evidence in the trial of Zachary Rolfe sought legal advice before speaking to investigating police.

Mr Rolfe, himself a police officer, is charged with the murder of Kumanjayi Walker on 9 November 2019 in Yuendumu. He has indicated that he will plead not guilty. 

The case notes made by officers’ lawyer, Ray Murphy of of the Darwin-based Murphy and Associates, have been the subject of a subpoena by the Crown as part of its disclosure obligations in preparation for Mr Rolfe’s trial. 

Mr Murphy’s claim of legal professional privilege over the notes was one of the matters considered by Chief Justice Michael Grant in the Supreme Court in Darwin at a pre-trial hearing today.

Mr Murphy had produced the notes, partially redacted.

Chief Justice Grant clarified for Sophie Callan SC, appearing for the Crown, that the redactions appeared to apply to officers other than those named in the Crown’s subpoena – that is, not to the officers directly involved in the case.

He proposed inspecting the notes himself to ascertain whether they’re subject to legal professional privilege and asked Mr Murphy to comply with the Crown’s request for a  schedule for the notes, as well as emails and other documents. This was so that the Crown, in Ms Callan’s words, “can have a proper understanding of the dates and nature of the communications.”

Also discussed was a request to allow streaming of the trial proceedings (starting in July) to Yuendumu (in addition to streaming to the Supreme Court in Alice Springs).

The Yuendumu school hall would be used for the purpose.

“There would be a facilitator who would close down the broadcast whenever court is closed, whenever arguments are being made in the absence of the jury and otherwise, whenever the trial judge ordered,” outlined Chief Justice Grant.

“It wouldn’t impact on arrangements for witnesses. Witnesses could still give evidence either from the police station facility in Yuendumu by audiovisual link, if the court gives leave for that purpose, or from the Alice Springs Courthouse or from Darwin for those witnesses who it’s anticipated will travel to Darwin to give their evidence.”

The concern for both the Crown and the Defence was how to ensure that no witnesses  or potential witnesses accessed the streaming. (Many though will be giving their evidence in person in Darwin, said the Chief Justice.)The issues will be revisited at the next pre-trial hearing, scheduled for 9am on March 31.

Meanwhile, the parties are making progress on agreed facts in the case.

Note: This report is based on a transcript of the hearing which the court allowed to be circulated to media.

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