‘Not in the interests of justice’ to move Yuendumu…

'Not in the interests of justice' to move Yuendumu...

‘Not in the interests of justice’ to move Yuendumu…

An application to move Constable Zachary Rolfe’s murder case from Alice Springs to Darwin has been refused by a local court judge.

Constable Rolfe was charged with one count of murder over the death of Yuendumu man Kumanjayi Walker, in November 2019.

Lawyers for the police officer had applied to have all preliminary legal proceedings heard in Darwin, arguing Constable Rolfe would face discrimination, and be in danger, if the case continued to be heard in Central Australia.

“I’m not satisfied it’s in the interests of justice to support a change of venue,” Alice Springs local court Judge John Birch said.

“Judges in Alice Springs have for many years given people access to justice, and the surrounding communities including Yuendumu.

“To change the venue now would be to pre-empt an outcome in the Supreme Court.

Another application could be made

“[Constable Rolfe’s] security can be dealt with either by use of video-conferencing or by the defendant appearing in person for the entirety of the proceedings.”

Judge Birch noted that the next step in Constable Rolfe’s legal proceedings was a preliminary examination, and that it was purely administrative in nature and simply to determine whether the matter would be referred for trial in the Supreme Court.

After the outcome of the preliminary examination, lawyers for Constable Rolfe would be able to make another application to move the trial to Darwin.

“At the completion of the preliminary examination, a court must consider the sufficiency of evidence for trial,” Judge Birch said.

“There will be no trial in this local court β€” a preliminary examination is administrative in nature.”

The family and members of the Yuendumu community gathered outside the courtroom awaiting the judge’s decision, with the crowd cheering when they heard the result.

Kumanjayi Walker’s cousin and vice-chair of the Warlpiri Parumpurru (justice) Committee, Samara Fernandez Brown, said the whole community was happy with the outcome.

“I think there’s just a huge feeling of relief through everybody, because obviously it would’ve been very difficult logistically and financially to get everyone to go to Darwin” Ms Brown said.

‘We’ve not seen any displays of violence’

Elder Ned Jampijinpa Hargraves, chairperson for the Warlpiri Parumpurru Committee, agreed that it was a huge relief.

“We want it here because it is so extremely important to our family members and to the community,” Mr Hargraves said.

Though the news was welcomed, Ms Brown said everyone understood the decision was just for the preliminary hearings, and if the matter went to trial in the Supreme Court the discussion would possibly happen again.

She said the family had been warned by their lawyers that the court case could last a long time and the community was prepared for that, but everyone was still feeling quite emotional following the events of last month.

“No one gets to disconnect from the environment [where] the incident occurred, so it is very present, but we’re as a community working really hard to heal and be there for each other,” she said.

“The support and love that we’re getting from external people and supporters is really critical.”

Ms Brown reiterated that despite the hurt, the community remained peaceful.

“There are claims that there is violence out there and we just wanted to clear that up, because from us, community members being in community, we’ve not seen any displays of violence.”

The matter was adjourned till April 9, 2020 for an preliminary examination in the Alice Springs local court.

Constable Rolfe’s bail was extended until the next court appearance.

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'Not in the interests of justice' to move Yuendumu... 2