National Business Review
June 25 2003

$100,000 reward offered for new information in the matter of Peter Ellis

The publisher of The National Business Review, Barry Colman, has announced that he is offering a $100,000 reward for substantial new information in the Peter Ellis case.

The reward addresses Justice Minister Phil Goff's contention that without new evidence he is unwilling to order a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the case, widely considered in
New Zealand to be an egregious miscarriage of justice.

Peter Ellis was convicted in 1993 of 16 counts of sexual abuse of pre-schoolers in a
Christchurch crèche where he worked. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail, largely on the basis of testimony from the children who were alleged to be his victims. He was freed in 2000.

Mr Colman says the case -- including much of the evidence -- was "disastrously biased" against Mr Ellis.

"Some of the material [presented by the children] is quite preposterous," Mr Colman said in a radio interview today. He believes that had the jury been told of all the allegations against Mr Ellis, which included fantastical adventures and bizarre happenings that were clearly the product of imagination, the jury would not have found him guilty.

Instead, Mr Colman says, the jury was presented only with those bits of evidence that appeared plausible.

Mr Colman was one of more than 800 community and civic leaders who signed a petition calling for the government to convene a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the case. Justice Minister Phil Goff denied the petitioners, saying the case had been adequately reviewed and that he would not consider such a move in the absence of new evidence.

National MP Don Brash, who presented the petition along with National MP Katherine Rich, said on Holmes last night that Mr Goff did not need new evidence to proceed.

The petition drive was sparked by Lynley Hood's explosive book on the case, A City Possessed, in the writing of which she says she spent over 19,000 hours examining the facts and trial. Ms Hood says it is time for new action on the case.

"There is now broad public and professional consensus that in the Christchurch Civic Crèche case the justice system failed and failed catastrophically," she said.

Mr Colman says he hopes "this sort of offer will flush out some new evidence" that Mr Goff will not be able to ignore. Since making the announcement of the reward this morning, Mr Colman says he has already been contacted by three people with what may be new evidence.

Mr Colman says the effort to convene the Royal Commission of Inquiry should not devolve into a political exercise and that he hopes the multi-partisan spirit behind the petition will continue.

He also says he does not believe the search for new evidence should involve going back and "bothering the children" again, but that new information is likely to surface from among those who were associated with the crèche in a professional capacity.

"This young man has really been a scapegoat," Mr Colman said.

He plans to present any new information to the petition organisers, including Ms Hood, for evaluation about its importance. On their positive assessment, he says, he'll pay out the reward.

Parties with such information are invited to call 09-307-1629.

Among the hundreds who signed the petition 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, and Metro founder Warwick Roger. NBR editors were approached but did not sign because newspaper policy precludes participation in petitions of a personal nature.

Signs of political involvement came early in the petition drive when Labour ministers were told by the whip not to sign. Despite that, Labour MPs David Parker and Georgina Beyer signed.