The Dominion Post
June 25 2003

Judge calls for new look at Ellis case
by David McLoughlin

A retired High Court judge says he has serious misgivings about the Christchurch Civic Creche child abuse case and that a full commission of inquiry is needed to answer the many questions raised about the prosecution.

The former Justice Laurie Greig, who retired from the bench in 1996, is one of 140 lawyers, politicians and other public figures to sign a petition seeking a royal commission into the case, in which creche worker Peter Ellis was sentenced to 10 years' jail in 1993.

The petition was presented to Parliament yesterday by its organisers, National MPs Don Brash and Katherine Rich. Several former creche workers were among about 50 people who attended a ceremony at Parliament.

Justice Greig, who was on the bench at the time of Ellis' trial and first unsuccessful appeal, said yesterday that he had not followed the case closely at the time but became concerned after reading Dunedin author Lynley Hood's book about it, A City Possessed.

"When I read that book I felt it required a sober investigation, a separate new look by a commission of inquiry," he said. "Even if it comes out that [Ellis] was indeed guilty, that would be a worthwhile outcome too, as long as it resolved all the doubts."

Ellis was paroled in 2000, still maintaining his innocence. In 2001 a report on the case for Justice Minister Phil Goff by former chief justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum said Ellis had failed "by a distinct margin" to prove his innocence. Mr Goff has said that he could order a new inquiry only if there was new evidence, but the petition organisers hope that the public standing of those who signed will change his mind.

Signatories include former prime ministers David Lange and Mike Moore, MPs from all parliamentary parties, many former MPs, prominent lawyers such as Queen's Counsels George Barton and John Rowan, former
Auckland police chief Bryan Rowe, historian Michael King, businessman Sir Robert Jones and former chief of naval staff Edward Thorne.

As well as the 140 named public figures, another 667 people signed the document presented to Parliament, including former parents and pupils of the creche. A website has been set up to gather more signatures.

Speaking at the ceremony yesterday, Lynley Hood said the justice system had failed catastrophically in the creche case.

"You don't need the permission of the judicial system for a royal commission, all you need is moral courage."

Former Christchurch Civic Creche supervisor Gaye Davidson said all she wanted was justice for Ellis, and the staff and families of the creche.

"We've lost years of our lives and still live under the shadow of the allegations made against us."

Dr Brash said nine Queen's Counsel, nine law professors and 26 MPs had signed the petition, which he hoped Mr Goff would take seriously.