A Northern Territory police officer charged with murdering an Indigenous teenager has persuaded a judge to keep his personal details private to protect him and his family.
Constable Zach Rolfe was charged after Kumanjayi Walker, 19, was fatally shot last November as two officers tried to arrest him in his home in Yuendumu, 300km north-west of Alice Springs.
Rolfe is on bail and appeared in Alice Springs local court via phone on Wednesday. He is yet to enter a plea but has previously indicated he intends to plead not guilty, which will result in a supreme court jury trial to be held in Alice Springs.
Rolfe’s lawyer, David Edwardson QC, applied for a suppression order on Wednesday, restricting the publication of Rolfe’s residential address after he recently moved homes.
The local court judge, John Birch, granted the non-publication order after reading a sworn affidavit containing sensitive material in support of the application.
He would not release the details but it was implied that both Rolfe and members of his family had been approached and contacted at their home because people knew where they lived.
Rolfe, a decorated 29-year-old police officer and army veteran, was based in Alice Springs but moved after he was charged over Walker’s death.
There were concerns for his safety in the NT at the time, with Rolfe supported by many fellow officers, but Walker’s death has been a flashpoint for anger over police treatment of Aboriginal people.
Numerous rallies have been held around Australia citing his death, including recent Black Lives Matters marches.
Birch told the court he was “satisfied that it is in the interests of justice that I make an order” prohibiting the publication of Rolfe’s residential address.
“I note the matters contained in the affidavit in support of the application and the conduct that is alleged to have taken place towards the defendant, as well as his family,” he said.
Rolfe’s lawyers have previously tried but failed to get his trial moved to Darwin, citing inflamed tensions and division within the community but Yuendumu residents that want to attend can only do so in Alice Springs.
Birch has said he was concerned about prosecution delays in gathering evidence, including from a biomechanics expert to assess the confrontation and an expert regarding police bodycam footage.
Part of Rolfe’s defence is that Walker stabbed him and attacked another police officer, which the family disputes.
The case is due back in court on 14 August.
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