Otago Daily Times
March 17, 2001
Ablett Kerr angry that expert's opinion not sought
Staff Reporter and NZPA
Dunedin QC Judith
Ablett Kerr is angry a retired High Court judge's recommendation that a
formal opinion on the Peter Ellis case be sought from an expert American
psychologist was twice rejected.
In a 1999 report, Sir Thomas Thorp recommended a formal opinion on evidence
given by children from Christchurch's Civic Crèche
be obtained from Cornell
professor Stephen Ceci, Mrs Ablett Kerr said in a statement yesterday.
Sir Thomas' report into the case of convicted paedophile Ellis was released
by Justice Minister Phil Goff this week.
Ellis, freed in February last year after serving two-thirds of a 10-year
sentence for his 1993 conviction on 13 charges of abusing children, maintains
Mrs Ablett Kerr said the Crown Law Office rejected a request it consent to
Prof Ceci providing an independent brief to the Court of Appeal.
Former chief justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum also rejected a request from Mrs
Ablett Kerr last year that he approach the expert on the mass-allegation crèche
case, she said.
The Eichelbaum report was released this week.
"Mr Ellis is of the view that his case will not be resolved until there
is a wider inquiry and Prof Ceci is asked to give his opinion on all the
evidence," Mrs Ablett Kerr said.
Sir Thomas Thorp's report said the two petitions filed on behalf of Ellis
raised a "considerable number of issues sufficiently to point to a need
for further investigation".
The report canvassed issues raised in Ellis' petitions, including claims
defective interviewing techniques were used to gain the children's evidence
and that allegations by the children that were necessary for the jury to
access their reliability were excluded from the trial.
But it was inappropriate to express any firm view on whether Ellis should be pardoned
at that time, nor should a pardon be considered while his case was before the
Sir Thomas said.
It would "in my view be difficult to argue against the existence of a
serious doubt" about Ellis' convictions if the opinions canvassed proved
to have general support, he said.
Mr Goff said the report was not casting doubt on Ellis' convictions.
"It was based on untested expert reports commissioned by Mrs Judith
Ablett Kerr QC, and the experts had only been given selective materials on
which to base their opinions.
"Sir Thomas Thorp recognised the limitations of the reports, but
nevertheless considered they gave rise to serious concerns which warranted
The report resulted in a widening of the Appeal Court's terms of reference for
the case. But the Appeal Court
decided it was unable to address issues relating to evidence because of
limits on its jurisdiction and the way in which evidence had been presented.
"It was for that reason that I established the Eichelbaum inquiry,"
Mr Goff said.
He announced earlier this week the ministerial inquiry by Sir Thomas
Eichelbaum found Ellis' case failed by a "distinct margin" to prove
his conviction was unsafe.
"The Eichelbaum inquiry was exactly the kind of inquiry contemplated in
the Thorp report," Mr Goff said in a statement yesterday. "Sir
Thomas Eichelbaum obtained views of pre-eminent international experts who
were entirely independent and based their views on a full knowledge of the
case rather than selected materials. I am satisfied that this case has had
the most thorough investigation possible, and that I had no option but to
advise the Governor-General to decline Mr Ellis' recent application for a