‘You’re not just attacking me, you’re attacking police’: Gunner rejects accusations of Rolfe interference in Parliament

by | Mar 22, 2022 | News | 0 comments

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has again denied any involvement in the decision to charge Constable Zach Rolfe with murder in the shooting death of Kumanjayi Walker, telling Parliament that any attack on him about the situation is “an attack on the police”.

Opposition CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro spent the majority of Question Time in Parliament Tuesday probing Mr Gunner over his meetings and discussions with the police brass and others in the four days between the shooting and the charges being laid in November 2019.

Mr Gunner has come under intense criticism for comments he made in Yuendumu the day before Constable Rolfe was charged with murder, telling the community that “consequences will flow” from a proposed coronial inquest.

But that comment has been focused on since Constable Rolfe was found not guilty by a jury in the Supreme Court earlier this month by the NT Police Association, who alleged the comment implied the police had done something wrong and that they would be held accountable.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Gunner repeatedly denied any involvement and accused the Opposition and the police union of “misquoting” him, acting “maliciously” against him and “politicising the situation”.

“In this instance, you’re not just attacking me, you’re attacking police and your attacking [the office of the director of public] prosecutions and you’re undermining the integrity of our justice system, that’s what you’re doing,” he said when asked whether he had been involved with discussions around charges.

Mr Gunner then read from a statement that was issued last week by Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker, in which Mr Chalker had corroborated Mr Gunner’s denials that he was involved in the decision to charge Constable Rolfe in 2019.

“It is completely unnecessary for the CLP to stoke political tensions,” he said.

Mr Gunner has repeatedly refused to call an independent inquiry into the matter, echoing comments made by Mr Chalker that a coronial inquest scheduled for September would clear up any unresolved questions around the charges.

However, a coronial does not investigate the circumstances after the death and even if it did, findings of any potential illegal conduct would not be put in the coroner’s report and instead be referred to the Police Commissioner and the DPP.

Mr Gunner maintained the coronial inquest was the proper body to investigate.

“You want to cause deeper unrest and deeper division,” he said in Parliament. “We need to calmly work our way through the criminal justice processes just concluded, they’re going to have a coronial process that is going to happen.

“There was absolutely no involvement, interference, or influence from myself or anyone in my team. It’s a disgrace that the CLP and members of the independents don’t seem to trust our police, don’t seem to trust our prosecution people.”

Mr Gunner had denied earlier Tuesday that he had been in any discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions about the decision to lay the murder charge, telling ABC Radio that any suggestion he was involved in those discussions was “absolutely untrue and probably actionable”.

An hour before Question Time, NTPA president Paul McCue called on Mr Gunner to “take responsibility for his comments” or “step aside”.

“Once again we have seen the Chief Minister, happy to lay the blame for something he said at the feet of every single police officer in the NT, those very men and women who put their lives on the line each day to protect him, his family, and every other member of the community,” he said in a statement.

“The NTPA has every right to convey the concerns of our members, and in this case, a large portion of the community.

“The Chief Minister is deliberately using terminology which only inflames an already upset police force, and community, this morning saying how the union has weaponised and politicised his words. Yet he does not go on to say exactly how we did that, failing once again to understand that the perception of what he said, is reality, to those who heard it.”

 

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