Court blow for NT cop facing life in jail for shooting death of teenager

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The piece of legislation in question is Section 148B of the Act, which grants officers immunity from civil and criminal liability for something “done or omitted to be done by the person in good faith in the exercise of power or performance of a function” under the Act.

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Attempting to delay the trial to appeal in the High Court, Crown prosecutor Philip Strickland, SC, argued the full court decision was “manifestly wrong”.

“Because if it is correct, a police officer could shoot a suspect dead and avoid criminal liability under Section 148B if a jury finds a reasonable possibility he was – in good faith – performing a core function,” he said.

“… [these are] very broadly couched – maintaining social order, protecting life, [and] preventing the commission of an offence.”

NT Supreme Court Acting Justice Dean Mildren denied the stay, citing what he believed was the unlikelihood of the High Court to take the matter on, and the need for justice to be done in a timely manner.

However, less than an hour before the jury was set to be empanelled on August 23, High Court Justice Jacqueline Gleeson intervened and the Darwin trial was delayed again.

Prosecutor Philip Strickland, SC, says he hopes the trial can begin this year.

Prosecutor Philip Strickland, SC, says he hopes the trial can begin this year.Credit:Krystle Wright

The High Court on Wednesday agreed with the prosecution and limited the application of the “good faith” defence to common law and Section 124 of the Act, which relates to specific powers of arrest as opposed to the broad core functions of a police officer.

“The exercise of the common law powers, like the statutory powers, is subject to constraints, such as doing only that which is reasonable and necessary,” the court said.

In addition to this narrowed defence, Constable Rolfe can also argue self-defence and that his actions were within the reasonable duties of police.

The High Court ruling paves the way for a new trial date to be set.

Constable Rolfe would serve a mandatory life sentence with a minimum of 20 years if found guilty of murder. He also faces secondary charges of manslaughter and engaging in a violent act causing death.

He remains free on bail.

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