Otago Daily Times
June 25 2003

Goff's advice on Ellis case 'appalling'

Wellington: 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 yesterday.

Ms Hood yesterday 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.

Ms 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," Ms 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."

Ms 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 Mr Ellis' innocence after reading Ms 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, cartoonist Murray Ball, former Labour cabinet ministers David Caygill and Stan Rodger, businessman Sir Peter Elworthy, and writers Maurice Gee, Witi Ihimaera and Keri Hulme.

Mr Ellis was sentenced to 10 years' jail in 1993. He spent six and a-half years in prison and was freed in 2000, having always maintained his innocence.

Mr Goff yesterday said 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.

In his view, "to overturn a judicial decision, reaffirmed on a number of occasions, requires new evidence and that's what we'd want to see presented."