Brent Wyndham: WA Police officer who shot Yamatji woman JC gives up chance to keep his identity secret

Emily Moulton
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of WA agreed to lift the suppression order that had been placed on First Class Constable Brent Wyndham’s name following his arrest for the murder of the mother-of-one in September 2019.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of WA agreed to lift the suppression order that had been placed on First Class Constable Brent Wyndham’s name following his arrest for the murder of the mother-of-one in September 2019. Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

The WA Police officer who fatally shot Yamatji woman JC will not fight to keep his name secret after he failed to lodge an appeal against a decision by the State’s highest court for his identity to be made public.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of WA agreed to lift the suppression order that had been placed on First Class Constable Brent Wyndham’s name following his arrest for the murder of the mother-of-one in September 2019.

However, it also agreed to keep the order in place for a few more weeks to allow his legal team to either lodge an appeal or an application for a stay on the decision.

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That reprieve came to an end at 5pm on May 31, with the Supreme Court confirming no appeal or stay application had been lodged, allowing the publication of Const. Wyndham’s identity and the fact he had returned to duty in Geraldton to be revealed.

Const. Wyndham became the first WA policeman to be charged with murder in almost a century after he shot JC in the stomach because she refused to put down a serrated bread knife and a pair of pink scissors she was carrying while roaming the streets of Geraldton in September 2019.

The police officer who fatally shot Yamatji woman JC will not fight to keep his name secret after failing to lodge an appeal against a decision by the State’s highest court for his identity to be made public.
The police officer who fatally shot Yamatji woman JC will not fight to keep his name secret after failing to lodge an appeal against a decision by the State’s highest court for his identity to be made public. Credit: Unknown/Facebook

A trial was held in 2021, where the constable was acquitted of the murder charge; however, the suppression order remained in place.

In preparation for a coronial inquiry into JC’s death, the State Coroner lodged an application to allow her office, staff, and the lawyers involved in the inquest, as well as their administrative staff, to have access to un-redacted documents containing the officer’s name.

This prompted a separate application from JC’s family, who argued at the hearing that there was no evidence to suggest there was a risk to the officer’s safety in the lead-up to and around the trial. They also argued that keeping his identity a secret created a sense of preferential treatment for a police officer.

Despite opposition from lawyers acting for Const Wyndham and WA Police Commissioner Col Blanch, who raised concerns for the officer and his family’s safety, Justice Robert Mitchell granted the request to remove the order, saying the risk was not sufficient enough when balanced against the principles of open justice.

In his decision, Justice Mitchell said continuing to suppress the officer’s identity had the potential to stifle public debate on important issues involving police operations as well as having a detrimental impact on JC’s family.

He said the circumstances surrounding JC’s death warranted public discussion, adding there was merit in “legitimate criticism of the conduct of police and demand improvement in police procedures”.

He said while JC was not complying with orders to drop the knife at the time, she was surrounded by eight fully equipped officers in four police vehicles and was not behaving in an aggressive or threatening manner “at least up to the very point at which she was shot”.

At trial, Const Wyndham claimed that he did not want to hurt JC and only fired his gun during the frantic 16-second confrontation because he thought she was going to stab him.

“The community is entitled to expect that the police officers would have been able to achieve an arrest in those circumstances without the use of lethal force,” Justice Mitchell said.

“Evidence at the trial of police officers who were on Petchell Street at the time JC was shot indicated that, despite all being in radio contact, they were not acting in a planned or coordinated way in dealing with JC.”

Justice Mitchell also said the officer was exercising public powers and claimed the use of lethal force against JC was justified.

Prosecutors argued at trial he had no justification for shooting JC because the 29-year-old woman had stopped and was not moving her feet.

“The fact that this occurs for a police officer is apt to suggest preferential treatment for an officer of the police force, which is an organisation that has an integral role in the system of criminal justice which the courts administer,” he said.

“The continuation of the identity suppression order will tend to undermine the community’s confidence in the impartiality of the courts for administering criminal justice.”

The inquest into JC’s death is set to be held in July.

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