June 24 2003
(Updated Report 5pm)

Goff being badly advised - Ellis campaigner

Justice Minister Phil Goff was being badly advised by his officials when arguing he would need new evidence to order a royal commission of inquiry into the Peter Ellis case, author Lynley Hood said today.

Hood today presented a petition calling for a royal commission of inquiry into Ellis' conviction in the Christchurch Civic Creche child abuse case, to National MPs Don Brash and Katherine Rich.

Hood told reporters the minister had the constitutional authority to instruct the governor-general to establish a royal commission.

"He could do it tomorrow. You don't need new evidence to establish a commission of inquiry. You don't need the permission of the judiciary. All you need is moral courage and political will," Hood said.

"He claims to have an open mind but, you know, I sometimes wonder if it's so open his brain's fallen out.

"He's getting terrible advice (from the Ministry of Justice). I've seen the advice and it's appalling."

New Zealand justice system was good but in the Ellis case some people had got slack "and a whole lot of things went wrong".

Hood's book, A City Possessed, triggered the petition which has been signed by more than 800 people, including 140 high profile New Zealanders in politics, the judiciary, media and the arts.

Twenty-six MPs have signed it, including Labour MP Georgina Beyer.

Dr Brash said he was convinced of Ellis' innocence after reading Hood's book.

The list also includes retired High Court judge Laurence Greig, former prime ministers David Lange and Mike Moore, nine Queen's Counsels including Nigel Hampton and Stuart Grieve, law professors John Burrows, John Prebble and Brian Brooks, cartoonist Murray Ball, former Labour cabinet ministers David Caygill and Stan Rodger, Sunday Star Times editor Suzanne Chetwin, Listener editor Finlay Macdonald, Metro founding editor Warwick Roger, columnist Chris Trotter, businessman Sir Peter Elworthy, writers Maurice Gee, Witi Ihimaera and Keri Hulme, cricket coach Glenn Turner, Dunedin mayor Sukhi Turner, artist Grahame Sydney and arts patron Jenny Gibbs.

Ellis was sentenced to 10 years' jail in 1993. He spent 6 years in prison and was freed in 2000, having always maintained his innocence.

Mr Goff today told reporters there had been a trial, two Court of Appeal hearings, and a ministerial inquiry headed by former chief justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum into the Ellis case.

There would need to be new evidence for the courts to again look at the matter, he said.

"Judicial decisions are made by people with the skill and the experience to do so. They're not made by politicians, they're not made by authors, nor are they made by notable people.

"But the people who have signed are genuine, obviously, in their concerns. Their petition will be considered in the normal way by the parliamentary process.

"But my view at this stage is (that) to overturn a judicial decision, reaffirmed on a number of occasions, requires new evidence and that's what we'd want to see presented," Mr Goff said.

In 1995, then an opposition MP, Mr Goff wrote to one family and said he believed a full inquiry should be held.

Ms Rich said the ministerial inquiry had a narrower focus than a royal commission would have.

Former creche supervisor Gaye Davidson today said she wished the whole thing was over.

"We've lost years of our lives in terms of what has happened to us. We still live under the shadow of the accusations that were made against us even though we were acquitted and we would dearly like it all to go away and it won't until this comes true, until we get our inquiry," she said.

Ellis was nervous about what the outcome of the petition would be but was "bearing up okay", she said.