10 September 2021

Zac Rolfe trial will face long delay as High Court special leave application is granted

| Genevieve Jacobs
Zachary Rolfe

Former Canberran Zach Rolfe with his bravery award. Photo: File.

Australia’s most senior court announced this morning that it will rule on matters of law before the Zachary Rolfe murder trial proceeds in the Northern Territory.

The trial was set to begin on 23 August after multiple delays, but the prosecution urgently sought for the High Court to stay the trial so it could seek leave to appeal part of a judgment by the Northern Territory Supreme Court.

That leave was granted by Justice Jacqueline Gleeson just one hour before the trial was scheduled to begin, noting that the death of an Aboriginal man by a police officer was a matter of gravest community concern with substantial risk if Mr Rolfe was acquitted on the basis of a wrong legal construction.

A hearing for the special leave application took place today and the High Court has now granted the special leave application.

The prosecution’s arguments will centre around whether Mr Rolfe can argue that he was acting in “good faith” in his position as a police officer when he’s alleged to have shot Kumanjayi Walker at Yuendumu in 2019.

The NT Supreme Court had ruled Constable Rolfe could argue he was not criminally responsible for Mr Walker’s death if the jury found he was acting in “good faith” in his role as a police officer during the arrest.

But Crown prosecutor Philip Strickland SC argued there would be significant ramifications if Mr Rolfe were acquitted on the grounds that he had acted in good faith.

There’s now likely to be a long delay before his trial can be held while the full bench of the High Court considers the case, although the court has also noted the urgency of the matter.

Constable Rolfe is the son of well-known Canberra business couple and philanthropists Richard and Debbie Rolfe.

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