The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

News Reports

2001 Jan-June

NZ Herald
March 14 2001

Ellis case has run its course

Such have been the strong emotions raised by the Peter Ellis case that those who believe him innocent and those convinced of his guilt will surely never see eye to eye. Now, however, is the time to put the matter to rest. The Court of Appeal has twice reviewed his conviction for sexually abusing children in his care at the Christchurch civic creche. Twice, it has upheld the jury's verdict. Now that verdict has effectively been upheld a third time by retired Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum. That should be the end of the matter.


Ellis' supporters will doubtless claim that Sir Thomas' one-man inquiry was too narrow in its thrust. He was asked to decide whether evidence given by children from the creche against Ellis was so suspect that the conviction was unsafe and a pardon was warranted. Ellis' supporters would have preferred a royal commission of inquiry with the power to summons evidence.


That, however, would have meant virtually a relitigation of the case, and further potentially traumatic questioning for the children involved.


The interests of justice did not merit such a call on those children. As the Court of Appeal suggested, the issue of the gathering of evidence warranted investigation. But it is relevant that the court found in its last judgment that there was not sufficient new evidence of "contamination" of the children's testimony to set aside the guilty verdict. Even when one of the children recanted testimony on the eve of an appeal, it failed to sway the court.


Sir Thomas' inquiry included an evaluation of opinions from internationally recognised experts on sex abuse. Its thoroughness could be gauged by the extension of the original reporting deadline. His report should mean the Ellis case has run its course. The process of justice has been served.