The Dominion Post
June 10 2003

Goff rebuffs Ellis petition

Justice Minister Phil Goff has challenged author Lynley Hood to give him fresh evidence of a miscarriage of justice in the case of convicted sex offender Peter Ellis.

Mr Goff rebuffed growing calls from prominent New Zealanders yesterday to order a royal commission of inquiry into Ellis' conviction for child abuse at Christchurch Civic Creche.

A petition signed by former Labour prime ministers David Lange and Mike Moore, plus lawyers, writers and media people, has been circulating Parliament, attracting signatures across the political spectrum.

It is understood several Labour MPs have been considering signing the petition, including backbench Government MPs David Parker, Georgina Beyer and Russell Fairbrother. They are understood to be awaiting approval from Labour caucus whip David Benson-Pope. But Mr Benson-Pope said it was unlikely permission would be granted.

"We don't generally respond to questionnaires or petitions unless there is an agreed caucus position. I wouldn't be expecting members of the Labour caucus to be supporting it."

National MPs Don Brash, Katherine Rich and Judith Collins have already signed, along with ACT MP deputy leader Ken Shirley and MPs Stephen Franks, Rodney Hide and Muriel Newman. Green co-leaders Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimons and MPs Keith Locke and Sue Bradford and United Future leader Peter Dunne have also signed.

Mr Goff said yesterday that he would not send the Ellis case for further review unless Hood produced fresh evidence.

"I have always said I have an open mind on the question of the conviction of Peter Ellis.

"(But) I draw attention to the fact that he was convicted by a jury (and) he has had his case twice before the Court of Appeal."

Mr Goff said he had also sent the case to former chief justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum, who found the case failed "by a distinct margin" to demonstrate any miscarriage of justice.

He conceded he had the power to set up a royal commission but said fresh evidence was needed. Mr Goff said an application for a royal prerogative of mercy was another avenue open to Ellis supporters.

He had now read "substantial parts" of Hood's book.