ICAC has ‘no responsibility for failures’ in police Rolfe investigation: ICAC Inspector backflips on independent oversight commitment

by | Apr 14, 2022 | News, Special Investigation | 0 comments

The Office of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption did not provide promised oversight of the NT Police’s flawed investigation into the shooting death of Kumanjayi Walker despite being directly requested to do so by Aboriginal elders in Yuendumu, and publicly claiming that it would, the NT Independent can reveal.

The police investigation, dubbed Operation Charwell, was struck in November 2019, after Constable Zach Rolfe had already been charged with murder in an unusual move, with a stated mission to provide a brief of evidence to the DPP to support the murder charge.

Questions over the integrity of the investigation have been raised in recent days, including that investigators involved in the murder investigation had unresolved conflicts of interest, that an international “expert” was paid up to $100,000 by police for a report critical of Constable Rolfe that was repeatedly altered at the request of investigators, that his testimony was heavily relied on by a judge to commit Rolfe to stand trial for murder despite not testifying at the Supreme Court trial and various other perceived integrity issues with the investigation.

Both the ICAC and ICAC Inspector refused to comment on the issues raised in recent reports about the investigation and whether proper independent oversight of police investigating their own would have prevented the perceived lack of confidence in the investigation.

ICAC Inspector Bruce McClintock appeared to backflip on his previous statements about the Office of the ICAC providing “continuing independent oversight”, suggesting now that the ICAC had no role in overseeing the investigation.

According to Mr McClintock’s 2020 annual report however, “the ICAC received a request from local Aboriginal elders who sought independent oversight of the police investigation” at roughly the same time Constable Rolfe was charged with murder on November 13, 2019 – just four days after the shooting of Mr Walker.

“The Commissioner [then Ken Fleming], to explain his independent oversight role, attended a public rally in Alice Springs,” Mr McClintock wrote in his report, adding that as a result of statements made at that 2019 rally about “corrupt conduct” on the part of anyone who did not believe “that black lives matter”, the ICAC had received six complaints, forcing Mr Fleming to stand down from his independent oversight role.

“I took the view that because of the possible perception of bias on the part of the Commissioner he should not be involved in the ICAC’s continuing oversight of the police investigation into the death of Mr Walker,” Mr McClintock wrote.

He later wrote to Chief Minister Michael Gunner on December 2, 2019 to inform him that Mr Fleming would not personally be providing oversight of the investigation any longer and that the Inspector would continue “to monitor the situation and the ongoing investigation which is being managed by [then-ICAC general manager Matthew] Grant pursuant to an existing delegation”.

An internal police organisational chart for Operation Charwell, obtained by the NT Independent, also shows the Office of the ICAC was to be involved in the investigation at the highest levels, along with the police joint management committee and the assistant commissioner of crime and integrity.

However, independent oversight of the flawed police investigation did not occur.

ICAC says his office’s role will be ‘clarified’ after current investigation, as Grant took job with NT Police; Inspector changes story

ICAC Commissioner Michael Riches, who launched an investigation last month into allegations of improper conduct relating to the charges being laid against Constable Rolfe, declined to comment on why Mr Grant did not fulfil his stated responsibility of providing oversight.

Mr Grant left his general manager role with the Office of the ICAC last December to take a position with the NT Police as chief operating officer, which was reported at the time as a six-month secondment.

The police murder investigation does not appear to be part of the scope of Mr Riches’s current inquiry, because it occurred after Constable Rolfe was charged and outside of the four days Mr Riches has stated he is examining.

However, he said the role of the ICAC’s office would be “clarified” after his investigation.

“I commit to explaining the role played by my office in respect of the matter.  I appreciate that that should be clarified and I will do so,” Mr Riches said in response to a series of questions sent by the NT Independent.

“I intend to do that at the conclusion of my current investigation.”

Mr McClintock surprisingly said in response to questions that he never implied “the agency would ‘oversee’ the investigation”, despite specifically stating in his annual report that Mr Fleming could no longer be involved in “the ICAC’s continuing oversight of the police investigation” and that he would “continue to monitor the situation”.

“I repeat it was never the role of the ICAC to supervise the investigation or oversee it in the way you suggest,” he said in an email, adding that the ICAC was only engaged for “one issue that made a limited engagement … appropriate” involving police investigating their own, but did not elaborate.

“It follows, therefore, that the ICAC has no responsibility for the failures that you identify (assuming them to have occurred) and myself as Inspector, even less if that were possible.”

The NT Independent revealed last week that the NT Police’s use of force “expert” for the investigation was Snr Sgt Andrew Barram, who gave evidence against Constable Rolfe despite the head of Professional Standards Command earlier informing investigators he was “unsuitable” due to a “conflict of interest” involving his deep entrenchment in the NT Police force.

It was also revealed this week that Operation Charwell investigators had paid American criminologist Professor Geoffrey Alpert nearly $100,000 for a report critical of Constable Rolfe that had been altered after “suggestions” by Operation Charwell’s Detective Sgt Wayne Newell.

And last week, The Australian reported that one of Operation Charwell’s most senior officers, Assistant Commissioner Martin Dole, had a close relationship with Mr Walker’s partner’s grandfather, and that Eddie Robertson had referred to Mr Dole as his “younger brother”, reportedly telling investigators that he “used to nurse him when he was a little boy”.

Neither Mr Riches nor Mr McClintock would say if proper independent oversight of the investigation would have led to those matters being exposed and managed before the investigation was completed.

Constable Rolfe was found not guilty of murder and two alternative charges on March 11 by a Supreme Court jury.

Mr Grant refused to respond to emailed questions.

Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker also did not respond to questions.

Mr Riches’s investigation is expected to include public hearings and will probe Mr Chalker’s and other senior public figures’ potential involvement in the decision to charge Constable Rolfe, as well as initial investigators’ concerns over the rushed decision to lay charges before all evidence could be collected.

 

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