The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

News Reports Index

1993 Jan-May

Otago Daily Times
March 13 1993

'20/20' presents current affairs

TV3's 20/20 is the best of the week's current affairs programmes.

Louise Wallace is a superb presenter, achieving a pleasing balance of authority and style in a manner which readily captures viewer attention.

The first item was set in this country and examined the case of Debbie Gillespie, the Christchurch city crèche worker who had been charged with the sexual and physical abuse of the children in her care and who has now been freed from having to face trial. The charges against her were dropped.

Her willingness to appear on this programme was an acknowledgement of her concern for her fellow workers as well as a brave attempt to confront injustice.

Debbie Gillespie's arrest and the subsequent deposition hearings have been surrounded by an enormous media hype leading to tales of secret passages and underground torture chambers.

To her credit she did not attempt to answer any of these outrageous statements, but recalled in a simple, straightforward manner the circumstances of her arrest.

She was in bed when the police arrived and went through everything in her house. The detective in charge said, "I don't know how people like you can live with what you've done" and then expressed the hope that the media would be out in force to publicise the accused when they were charged on the following day.

From that moment it was trial by the media and as the media and the public have got bored with one of the longest deposition cases in New Zealand history, so the hysteria has gone and the evidence is able to be heard in a reasonable manner.

Debbie Gillespie's lawyer was highly critical of the evidence which was presented and of the manner in which the children were questioned.

This programme drew an alarming picture of the justice system in this country.

Are we going to see a return to the days of Oliver Cromwell and the people's courts which condemned innocent women to be hanged as witches? Many of these courts relied on the feeling that could be whipped up in the courtroom to achieve a conviction, a conviction which depended on folklore, superstition and mob reaction.

The women who have been charged in the Christchurch crèche case can be likened to the hapless women of the 16th century who were the victims of bigotry and ignorance. It was alarming to have evidence presented that the police are unable to distance themselves from the ignorance and prejudice of the masses and that, in this case, the justice system was compromised.

Life for Debbie Gillespie will never be the same. In fact, her life has been devastated and she is destined, as she herself has stated, to spend the rest of her life saying, "I am innocent".