The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

News Reports

2001 Jan-June

The Evening Post
March 14 2001

Ellis' lawyer vows to continue fight

Convicted child-abuser Peter Ellis' lawyer, Judith Ablett Kerr QC, has vowed to battle on to clear him after Governor-General Sir Michael Hardie Boys' decision to decline his application for a pardon.

She said possible options now included taking the case to the Privy Council in London or the Court of Human Rights in New York. Two earlier appeals to the Court of Appeal failed.

Ellis was convicted in 1993 of abusing seven children in his care at the Christchurch Civic Crèche between 1986 and 1991.

He was released in February last year after serving two-thirds of a 10-year sentence, having previously refused early parole because that would have required him to acknowledge guilt.

Justice Minister Phil Goff announced yesterday that he had advised the Governor-General to decline Ellis' application for a pardon after a lengthy investigation by former Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum.

Mrs Ablett Kerr called for Mr Goff to acknowledge the Ministerial inquiry was too narrow.

But Mr Goff said the inquiry was comprehensive and detailed and he was confident that it dealt with all the issues that warranted further investigation to protect against the possibility of a miscarriage of justice.

Sir Thomas spent more than 400 hours studying tapes, trial transcripts, Court of Appeal decisions and other material relevant to Ellis' conviction, Mr Goff said. He was advised by two international experts on child abuse and child testimony, Professor Graham Davies from Leicester University in Britain and Dr Louise Sas from Canada.

Mrs Ablett Kerr said she would have to think about the next step, but options included taking the case to the Privy Council or the Court of Human Rights.

"The report is naturally disappointing and to some extent has taken us by surprise," Mrs Ablett Kerr said.

"Although we never felt that the inquiry could provide the answers because it just didn't have enough material, we tried to assist the inquiry as much as we could."

That preliminary view was further endorsed when Professor Stephen Ceci, arguably the world's leading authority on the contamination of evidence of children, was not appointed to assist the inquiry, she said.

However, Mrs Ablett Kerr said she accepted Prof Davies as an international expert and in his report, she said he formed the same view as her that there needed to be a wider inquiry to judge whether the evidence of the children was contaminated. Prof Davies appeared to be of the view that a wider inquiry was under way, which was not the case, she said.