June 27 2003
Inquiry needed for closure
Editorial, Bob Cotton
The Christchurch Civic Creche case just will not go away. Nor should it if there was a flaw in the process by which Peter Ellis was convicted of sexually abusing children at the Christchurch Civic Creche in the early 1990s.
Mr Ellis was convicted in 1993 and spent seven years in jail. Throughout he has protested his innocence — even opting not to apply for early parole, concerned this could in some way be seen as accepting the verdict against him.
In spite of two hearings in the Court of Appeal and a ministerial inquiry headed by a former Chief Justice he still stands convicted.
The Ellis case is not as straightforward as those of Arthur Allan Thomas or Lindy Chamberlain. The social context as well as the evidence and systems are at issue in this one.
Disquiet was expressed by a few people at the time the creche case arose and gathered momentum over the years, reaching a climax after the publication of Lynley Hood's book, A City Possessed.
That book looked not only at the evidence and the system, but also the social context in which the case occurred. It was a time of rising concern over child sex abuse and satanic ritual which grew into a moral panic in this country.
This week a large group of high profile citizens backed a petition to Parliament calling for a royal commission of inquiry into the Ellis case.
It is difficult to see how the present impasse in this case is going to be broken.
On the one hand the petitioners are expressing disquiet about the process by which Mr Ellis was convicted. But on the other the Minister of Justice Phil Goff and presumably his advisers have said new evidence will be required before a new inquiry is ordered. Valid "new" evidence is unlikely considering the nature of the case and the time elapsed.
However, this is a case in which closure must be reached for the sake of all those involved.