The Christchurch Civic Crèche Case

News Reports

2001 Jan-June

Waikato Times
March 17 2001

Ellis defence denied US expert's opinion

A retired High Court judge's recommendation a formal opinion on the Peter Ellis case be sought from an expert American psychologist was rejected by the Crown Law Office and the later Eichelbaum investigation, Ellis' lawyer says.

In his 1999 report, Sir Thomas Thorp recommended a formal opinion on evidence given by children from Christchurch's Civic Creche be obtained from Cornell University psychology professor Stephen Ceci, Judith Ablett Kerr, QC, said yesterday.

Sir Thomas' report into convicted paedophile Ellis' case was released by Justice Minister Phil Goff yesterday.

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, has continued to maintain his innocence.

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 creche 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 Appeal Court, 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".

Mr Goff said the report was not casting doubt on Ellis' convictions.