The Territory’s anti-corruption watchdog is considering whether to launch a probe into the circumstances around Constable Zach Rolfe’s arrest and murder charge and is calling for anyone with information to contact his office.
The Opposition CLP and the NT Police Association have been calling for an independent inquiry into alleged political interference in the decision to charge Constable Rolfe just four days after the 2019 shooting death of Yuendumu man Kumanjayi Walker.
Constable Rolfe was found not guilty by a unanimous jury decision on Friday.
Mr Riches said he was “aware of previous statements by this office relating to the ICAC’s involvement in the NT Police investigation and ultimate arrest of Mr Rolfe”, referencing former Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Ken Fleming, who was forced to remove himself from any investigative role following backlash from comments he made at the time.
Mr Riches said he was not aware of any “investigative steps” the Office of the ICAC has taken between November 15, 2019 and the day he started in the role last July.
“Given the prosecution was already well underway when I started I did not consider it appropriate to conduct inquiries at that time,” he said.
“I am presently considering whether I should inquire into the circumstances of the investigation and arrest of Mr Rolfe.
“While I appreciate the public interest in the matter, I will not be rushed to decide whether or not I will investigate.”
Mr Riches added that anyone with information relating to the investigation or arrest of Constable Rolfe should contact his office.
The statement comes after Zach Rolfe’s father Richard Rolfe accused Mr Chalker of acting corruptly by hiding a report from the defence team and the prosecutor during the committal hearing and comes on the same day Chief Minister Michael Gunner denied any involvement in the decision to charge Constable Rolfe on radio.
The NTPA has accused Mr Gunner of the perception of political interference after he told the Yuendumu community in the wake of the shooting that “consequences will flow”.
Mr Gunner said he was referring to the coronial inquest and that the NTPA were running a “deliberate campaign of misinformation” against him.
Mr Gunner and Police Minister Nicole Manison had visited Yuendumu days after the shooting with Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker when Mr Gunner made the comments, and one day before Constable Rolfe was charged with murder.
Mr Gunner said he had met with police between the time of the shooting and the charge being laid, but claimed it had nothing to do with the charges.
Mr Gunner said he had been dealing with unrest in the community and needed to attend a public gathering to “provide leadership to calm things down”.
Calls for Mr Chalker to resign have been growing in recent days over his handling of the Rolfe matter, but Mr Gunner backed him on Tuesday, saying Mr Chalker was a “straight shooter” who had his “full support” and that the two men “work very closely”.
During the radio interview, Mr Gunner implied anyone who believes that he interfered in the charges was a “conspiracy nut”.
The ICAC provided no timeframe for when he would make a decision on whether to investigate the matter.