The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

News Reports Index

1993 Jan-May

The Press
Saturday, 6 March, 1993.

Charges against creche workers reduced

Three of four women accused In the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre sex abuse inquiry now face reduced charges.

A pre trial conference was held in the High Court yesterday to finalise the charges faced by the four women and one man accused of committing indecencies on children in their care.

After the conference, Deborah Janet Gillespie, aged 30, was discharged on the one charge remaining against her.

The four charges originally faced by Gaye Davidson. Marie Keys, and Janice Buckingham included indecent assault and sexual violation. The charges are now believed to have been reduced to one charge each of indecent assault.

Peter Hugh Ellis, who faced 42 charges, is now believed to be facing 30 charges

Mr Justice Williamson discharged Gillespie and Ellis on a charge of indecent assault after hearing that the girl who made the allegation would not be available to give evidence.

Flowers and hugs greeted Ms Gillespie as she left the dock to "meet a group of supporters. including her parents.

In a short statement outside the court she said she was "very, very pleased'.

Her counsel, Mr Gerald Nation, said Ms Glllespie's ordeal was over in one sense but "in lots of ways it s not over for this woman.

“What has sustained her over the last many months has been the knowledge of her own innocence and the unflinching support of those who know her best."

The draft indictment containing the charges to be faced by the remaining four accused was not available to the media yesterday.

Their High Court trial has been scheduled for April 26, and the hearing of pre-trial applications will begin on March 15.

The court has also been asked to review the decision of the District Court Judge who committed the accused to trial and will in addition hear applications to have the accused discharged for lack of evidence.

Mr Nation said it was appropriate that Ms Gillespie had been discharged, presumed innocent, given the background to the case.

Ms Gillespie was originally charged with performing an indecent act in a public place based on an allegation she had sexual intercourse with Ellis in front of two children.

She also faced two charges of indecent assault based on an alleged incident where she is said to have touched a complainant indecently in the presence of Ellis and to have watched Ellis perform the same indecency.

After an 11-week depositions hearing Ms Gillespie was committed for trial on the two indecent assault charges.

Mr Nation said the charges were based on the evidence of a child who began a 15 month stay at the creche at the age of 2½.

The allegations were made by the child at an interview that took place 18 months after the child had left the creche and 12 days after the arrest of the women workers.

Before her disclosure interview the child had been questioned repeatedly by her mother about possible abuse, thereby undermining the reliability of the child s evidence, Mr Nation said.

Interviewers had given evidence that direct questions could suggest ideas to children, and repeated questioning could cause children to form an expectation of what was required, he said

According to the child's mother's evidence, the child had said she had not been "bad touched" when her mother questioned her following Ellis s arrest In March 1992.

After the women workers were arrested in October the child's mother had asked the child if she was telling the truth about not being touched indecently.

After taking the child swimming the question about "bad touching" had again been put to her and the answer had again been no.

That night the mother had taken the child Into her own bed and asked her if she had been threatened with injury if she talked about the alleged abuse.

The child had said she did not want to talk about it and the next morning was asked if she had left the creche “where bad things happened" and whether she had to take her clothes off.

Before an interview arranged for October the child was told to go along and talk about the bad things and that It was safe to do so