March 3, 2001
Ellis not holding his breath for a pardon
by David McLoughlin
Former Christchurch Civic Crèche worker Peter Ellis may know within two weeks
if the fight against his convictions for abusing young children in his care
will result in a pardon.
But he is not holding his breath that he will get one.
Justice Minister Phil Goff received this week a report on aspects of the case
from former chief justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum.
Mr Goff appointed Sir Thomas in March last year to conduct a ministerial
inquiry into whether the interviews of crèche children in 1991 and 1992 by
Social Welfare staff were reliable and whether Mr Ellis should be pardoned.
Sir Thomas delivered his report just before Mr Goff left for an 11-day
overseas trip. Mr Goff's office said yesterday he hoped to make an
announcement about the report soon after he returned.
In 1993, Mr Ellis was convicted on 16 charges of sexual abuse of children and
sentenced to 10 years' jail. He was freed in February last year.
He has always protested his innocence.
The crèche case is similar to many in the United States, Britain and
Australia where multiple claims of bizarre abuse of children followed an
initial single allegation that sparked parental panic. Some Civic Crèche
parents circulated material from the American cases among the crèche
community, some of them saying the crèche was a lair of satanic ritual abuse.
Mr Ellis has twice been to the Court of Appeal, most recently in 1999 when
the court declined to quash the 13 remaining convictions, but recommended a
commission of inquiry as the most appropriate way to consider issues raised.
But Mr Goff opted for a narrow ministerial inquiry into interviewing
techniques, rather than a full commission of inquiry. Because of this,
neither Mr Ellis nor his supporters are optimistic that Sir Thomas will find
in his favour.