Walker inquest urged to 'get on with it'

·3-min read

An inquest into the death of an Indigenous teenager shot by a Northern Territory policeman has been urged to "get on with it" and resume hearing evidence amid more legal argument.

Counsel assisting Peggy Dwyer told the inquiry on Monday that it was in everyone's interests for the inquest to proceed.

"I hope it will be abundantly clear, we really need to get on with the evidence in this matter," she told coroner Elisabeth Armitage.

"Let's just get on with it, get back to basics and proceed with our co-operative approach so that we actually provide Your Honour with a basis to investigate Kumanjayi's death."

The inquest in Alice Springs is exploring 54 issues related to the life of Kumanjayi Walker and the actions of police before and after he was killed.

The 19-year-old Warlpiri man died after Constable Zachary Rolfe shot him three times during an arrest attempt in Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs on November 9, 2019.

Monday's hearing began with Dr Dwyer urging the coroner not to restrict the scope of her inquiry based on the objections of some parties.

She said Ms Armitage could and should rule on specific issues related to particular evidence but should decline to rule in any way on the broader list of issues likely to be considered.

"My submission is that Your Honour should not rule on the scope of the inquest," Dr Dwyer said.

"The act does not require you to and there are good reasons to think that it would inappropriate and premature."

Dr Dwyer also argued that the coroner did not need to consider whether to step aside from the inquiry on the basis that she had already received a full copy of a police report into the shooting which had been so far denied to other parties because of claimed privilege.

She told the coroner that police had now waived privilege over the report and it could be provided to all those involved, though its contents remained subject to a suppression order.

At the close of Monday's hearing, Ms Armitage said she would consider all oral and written submissions in relation to scope of the inquiry and hoped to hand down a ruling on Tuesday.

"So that we can proceed with the important evidence," she said.

Monday's hearing followed the objections by lawyers for Const Rolfe to 13 of the questions being explored on the basis of relevance.

David Edwardson KC said they also had the potential to undermine the not guilty verdict at Const Rolfe's murder trial.

He said the coroner should respect the Supreme Court jury's decision and not canvass the issues.

"The challenged categories of evidence are red herrings. They have all the hallmarks of a roving royal commission," the barrister said on Friday.

"With all the goodwill in the world, the introduction of this evidence is so remote and removed that it will, we suggest, demonise Zachary Rolfe, which is particularly offensive."

The issues include Const Rolfe's honesty when he applied to join the NT Police Force and whether drugs or illicit drugs impacted his conduct on the night of the shooting.

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