The Christchurch Civic Crèche Case

News Reports

2001 Jan-June

The Dominion
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.