Three former Christchurch Civic Crèche workers vowed to clear their names yesterday after they were discharged on the one remaining child abuse charge against them.
In the High Court, Mr Justice Williamson discharged Ms Gaye Davidson, Ms Janice Buckingham and Mrs Marie Keys on counts alleging they stood by while a child in their care was indecently assaulted.
The ruling followed a pre-trial application by counsel for the women. His Honour suppressed the submissions, which began on Monday, and his reasons for the decision.
The women, who were first charged on October 2 last year, said afterwards they were delighted and relieved "for ourselves and our families".
Ms Davidson, the crèche's former supervisor, broke down and wept when the judge indicated the direction of his ruling. Later, she said her driving force now was to fight what had happened to her and her fellow accused.
The women talked about rebuilding their lives and described as "torture" the past few days as they waited to learn whether they would face trial.
Ms Deborah Gillespie, another accused crèche worker who was earlier discharged on the one charge remaining against her described the ruling as great news.
She and Peter Hugh Ellis, the other worker at the centre of the crèche case, were each discharged early last month on a count of indecent assault. Ellis, aged 34, originally faced 42 charges, but is now believed to face about 30 charges in a High Court trial scheduled to begin on April 26.
The police said yesterday the decision to prosecute the women crèche workers had been made in consultation with the Crown Solicitor and the police legal section.
The Investigation Into allegations of abuse at the crèche had produced evidence which established a prima facie case, a spokeswoman said.
The threshold at which a decision to prosecute was made had been reached after the investigation, she said
The District Court also agreed a prima facie case had been established after hearing evidence at depositions
Each of the three women initially faced four charges alleging they had sexually abused children in their care, but these were reduced to one each after a depositions hearing
Although the women's emotions were dominated by relief yesterday, they said they expected to face a public which would never be convinced of their innocence
"We're never going to get over it," Ms Davidson said.
From the time they were charged they had refused to be secretive or shy about publicity, the women said
Ms Davidson, aged 39, said that after the police had searched her house and were ready to take her to the police station, they told her to run out to the police vehicle to avoid assembled media people
"I said no. I've got nothing to hide, nothing to be guilty of. I'm not running and I'm not going to hide my face."
All were pessimistic about their employment future. Ms Davidson said their natural ability with children had been lost. Mrs Keys said she would never risk putting herself or her family through the ordeal of the past six months by working in childcare again
"My employment prospects are nil and will be for some time. It's hard to accept as I know I have a lot to offer.
The women said their families were often the hidden casualties of events leading from the charges.
They said their children - Ms Davidson and Mrs Keys have two children each and Ms Buckingham has four - were afraid their mothers were going to jail. Ms Buckingham said her daughter had been socially isolated.
Ms Davidson and Mrs Keys said their children were fortunate in that they had continued to receive the support of friends throughout.
"People in the community know me and have seen our two daughters grow up. Friends have remained supportive," Mrs Keys said.
All said the events of the past six months had been slightly beyond belief and they had had to fight the feeling they had lost control of their lives.
Despite a lifting of spirits after the acquittal of Ms Gillespie, the women said they were still wary of going out in public by themselves.
However, none contemplates leaving
Ms Davidson has weathered a bullet with her name engraved in it arriving in the mail and several threatening telephone calls. Ms Buckingham has also received abusive telephone calls and has had "child molester" etched in her lawn with weedkiller.
Financially the allegations have been ruinous. Ms Buckingham said she had been forced to get food parcels from the City Mission. The women have all gone from reasonable salaries to surviving on benefits or redundancy payments. Although they have had legal aid, they may be required to make a contribution to legal expenses.
The women said the week after the laying of charges was one of the worst stages of the saga. Bail conditions in that week were as harsh as those imposed on the Harris gang.