The Christchurch Civic Crèche Case

News Reports

2001 Jan-June

Sunday Star Times
March 18, 2001.

Open plan toilets show Ellis is innocent
by Frank Haden

New Zealand is lagging behind in rejecting the nonsense of multiple ritual sex abuse

"The offences physically could never have happened."

Thanks to a blunder by Justice Minister Phil Goff, the dark side of the system has had its way at last with Peter Ellis. I hope the disgusting chorus who railroaded an innocent man into jail are satisfied.

Parents have their $50,000 lump sum handouts, enthusiastically touted by ACC shock troops in return for weaving an evil web of fanciful accusations against Ellis in their sitting-room conferences.

Police, social workers and other self-styled experts have the satisfaction of cobbling together a successful prosecution out of an outrageous collection of black fairy tales.

The astonishing narrowness of Gull's instructions to Sir Thomas Eichelbaum are to blame for focusing the retired chief justice on only one point: whether the interviewing techniques were dubious enough to discredit the convictions. Ellis, instead of facing a prosecution required to prove his guilt, was called on to prove his innocence with both hands fled behind his back. Eichelbaum lacked instructions to consider a fatal flaw in the prosecution: the offences physically could never have happened, no matter what rubbish the children were cajoled into reporting.

The offences were impossible because the open plan toilet area was constantly under surveillance by the unpredictable passing traffic of adults - creche workers, visitors and parents. This is the key to the whole thing.

I am better informed than most of the people parading their opinions on the Ellis case because I inspected the toilet area.

Take my word for it; none of the disgusting things Ellis was accused of doing could have happened there. Never mind worrying about who did or didn't do them: they were never done at all, by anyone.

Leicester University psychology professor Graham Davies, one of the two handpicked experts relied on in refusing a pardon, realised the significance of the toilet area layout he put the ball squarely back in Goff's court when he said the degree of privacy in the toilets was outside his brief, but "the wider inquiry" would wish to consider it. Here's Goff's main expert assuming there is a wider inquiry, unfettered by specious restrictions. But, dear me, Goff reckons a wider inquiry doesn't mean a wider inquiry.

As for Ontario psychologist Dr Louise Sas, some will dismiss her opinions because of her association with interviewers use of the now internationally discredited anatomically correct dolls.

I talked to Ellis after he heard his pardon had been refused.

"People are very good, you know," he said. "When the news came out, a woman stopped me in the street in Dunedin and told me not to be discouraged because plenty of people are on my side. A Radio Pacific nationwide talkback on Tuesday came up with 40 callers supporting me and only two against."

Ellis welcomed the way Goff had been forced on to the defensive in trying to downplay the toilet area observation by Davies.

"Is not only the layout of the toilets an inquiry should consider," Ellis said. "The toilets are in full view of the main play area and the staff room is directly opposite.

People used to go in and cut through that staff room door all the time, so nothing could have happened. The toilet area continued for years afterward to be set out that way, and to the best of my knowledge still is, If it could be a danger, they would alter it, the way road engineers fix a bend where accidents happen."

Ellis lives quietly with his mother, doing the gardening and housework and looking after 14 birds in his aviary. He's no longer under any prison-release restrictions.

"I can go where I like, and work anywhere I like. Though, when I apply for jobs, I am aware employers who might take me on stop and think, "Hey, I'll have to explain this to my staff."

Ellis said the public should be concerned the government plans to reintroduce the ACC lump sum payments for sex abuse allegations that were offered to parents making claims against him. "People thinking of making claims will rely on the Eichelbaum decision -  and that's taxpayers' money."

New Zealand is lagging behind the rest of the world in rejecting the nonsense of multiple ritual sex abuse. As Ellis told me, "It came from the northern hemisphere, and those countries have got on top of it, but we haven't."

We certainly haven't. The day the Eichelbaum decision was announced, the ACC reported 80% of the 47,000 people given $100 million in the past nine years as sex abuse compensation were adults claiming they remembered being abused as children.