The Press
June 9 2003

Ellis rapt at support for inquiry
by Jan McCarthy

Convicted paedophile Peter Ellis was "absolutely astounded" to learn of the well-known New Zealanders who had lent their signature to a top level inquiry into his conviction.

"I believe the Royal Commission of Inquiry has to come," he said last night after what he described as an "emotionally exhausting" day.

"I feel like a piece of polished brass, having been patted and stroked all day."

National MPs Don Brash and Katherine Rich have begun a petition calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the
Christchurch civic creche child abuse case. It aims to gather signatures of about 100 prominent New Zealanders.

Shopping at Hornby Mall yesterday, Ellis said people kept coming up to him asking where they could sign the petition.

"I told them: 'I expect you're not famous enough'," he said.

"I was overwhelmed. What's happening is, for me, heart moving."

Among the 75 who have already signed are former prime ministers David Lange and Mike Moore, Queen's Counsels Nigel Hampton and Stuart Grieve, law professors John Burrows, John Prebble, and Mark Henaghan, writers Keri Hulme, Maurice Gee, and Witi Ihimaera, Dunedin Mayor Sukhi Turner, and media personalities including Listener editor Finlay Macdonald, columnists Chris Trotter and Frank Haden, Metro founder Warwick Roger, and National Business Review publisher Barry Colman.

The petition has been sparked by
Dunedin writer Lynley Hood's book A City Possessed. Dr Brash said he had read "substantial chunks" of the book.

"It is a pretty disturbing piece of work. At more than 600 pages long it is a serious work of scholarship. It is hard to read it and not be persuaded that some serious wrong happened here."

Ellis was sentenced to 10 years' jail in 1993 on 16 counts of sexual abuse of preschoolers. Hood's book says hysteria and moral panic created allegations of crimes which never happened.

Ellis was freed in 2000, and has always maintained his innocence.

For the last two weeks Dr Brash, Ms Rich, and Hood have targeted those in the legal profession, members of Parliament, the media, and academia whose signatures they felt "would carry weight and the Government would take seriously," Dr Brash said.

There was no ultimate list, each of the trio canvassing prominent New Zealanders friends, colleagues, or acquaintances "with considerable standing in the community who might be interested.

"It's kind of grown like topsy," Dr Brash said.

A small number of those approached had turned them down.

"In fairness, I will not identify them," he said.

"Some felt this thing had been tried, the Court of Appeal hearing being the end of the matter."

Ms Rich said Hood's book was "not some $1.50 thriller you picked up in a bargain bin".

"It comprehensively argues the present flaws in the
New Zealand legal system. There is a growing sense of unease about this, and particularly this case.

"The numbers of concerned people are growing on a daily basis. It is not going away."

Ms Rich said with the wider public interest being generated by the petition, those interested in signing were welcome to call her office at Parliament for a copy.

She hoped a Royal Commission of Inquiry would bring justice to all those involved in the case, not just Ellis.

For Hood, the Royal Commission of Inquiry is about "getting to the bottom of the story so I can live with myself in my old age".

She expects to present the petition to Parliament late this month.