The Christchurch Civic Creche Case


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Radio NZ;
Checkpoint with Mary Wilson
January 29 2008; 18:45

Possible Royal Commission of Inquiry into Peter Ellis's Case

 

MARY WILSON -Back home the lawyer for convicted pedophile Peter Ellis has written to the justice minister asking for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the controversial case. Ellis served seven years of a ten year prison term for molesting children at the Christchurch Civic Creche and was released in 2000 still protesting his innocence.

 

He has a lot of supporters who have not been successful so far in arguing for a Commission but his lawyer Judith Ablett Kerr says new research by an Otago University professor shows just how flawed the child evidential interviews wereThe Ministerial Inquiry conducted by former Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum seven years ago found the interviews were carried out properly, but Mrs Ablett Kerr dismisses that.

 

 

JUDITH ABLETT KERR†† What we now know is that that Ministerial Inquiry which was supposed to be the answer to the concerns about the Ellis case. In fact it doesnít stand up to scrutiny

 

 

MARY WILSON -†† Itís conclusions was that the way the children were interviewed was appropriate.

 

 

JUDITH ABLETT KERR†† Yes

 

 

MARY WILSON -Your argument would be that those evidential interviews with the children were too flawed to be reliable?

 

 

JUDITH ABLETT KERR†† Yes, and for that I rely of course on the recent research of Professor Hayne. She says that contrary to the conclusions that were drawn in the Eichelbaum report the interviews did clearly ... and Iím quoting her now .... The interviews clearly did not meet the standards of best practice in 1991 and they would not meet current standards in 2006. The interviews were not conducted in accordance with findings from decades of scientific research investigating the reliability of childrenís reports and in some instances failed to comply with even the most fundamental guidelines.

 

Now thatís a pretty damning statement. In fairness to Professor Hayne, itís a very balanced research paper that she has produced and she says where things have been very good, but she says that 14919 questions were asked in the Ellis case of the children.This is just the ones on tape. Only 11 of them. Only 11 out of 14919 questions were coded as free recall - thatís the type of question that gets the most reliable information from children. She goes onto say that, you know, there were a certain percentage, a good percentage that were reasonably well conducted, but she points out that there were a significant percentage of questions that were capable of producing incorrect answers and false allegations.

 

 

MARY WILSON -And given the number of questions††††††††

 

 

JUDITH ABLETT KERR†† The number of questions were in itself really brings into question of how reliable the whole of the interviews could be

 

 

MARY WILSON -You can only imagine a lot of very confused children

 

 

JUDITH ABLETT KERR†† She said fatigue must have been a very big factor

 

 

MARY WILSON -†† So why didnít the Ministerial inquiry reach a similar finding?

 

 

JUDITH ABLETT KERR†† I think the difference is this. One, it all depends who you go to (laugh).But the experts in the Ministerial inquiry gave their opinion. What Professor Hayne has done is to provide an empirical research paper. Itís a paper based on science. Itís not opinion. Itís a scientific resultAnd this is the first time in the Ellis case of course that weíve actually had a scientific result

 

 

MARY WILSON -And that you think is enough for this government to say yes to a Royal Commission of Inquiry

 

 

JUDITH ABLETT KERR†† Well, not on itís own, itís not.I will obviously put that into the petition to go to London to the Privy Council, but if you couple with that the recent research papers done by a man named Ross Francis. They were published towards the end of last year in the NZ Law Journal, and they talked about the Eichelbaum inquiry and the kind of advice Justice Eichelbaum received. It was a search for how he came up with the experts that he did come up with. Because certainly one of the experts that he came up with could never be described as well known and in fact had a very clear position on interviewing of children and what was legitinmate and was not legitimate and I think there had been some difficulty in relation to a case that she had been involved in, in Canada, over techniques of child interviewing.

 

 

MARY WILSON -There has been publicity about that

 

 

JUDITH ABLETT KERR†† Yes there has, and so There have been lots of concerns and I donít want to go into all the concerns that Mr Francis has identified but there are enough concerns about the inquiry and the integrity of the inquiry to raise ... I was going to ask the Minister to speak with me anyway about it, but when I added on top of that the research that Harlene Hayne has came up with, which contradicts the conclusion of the Ministerial Inquiry, it seems to me that those people who have been asking for a Royal Commission of Inquiry are exactly right. Thatís exactly what should take place

 

 

MARY WILSON -Any response yet from the Minister?

 

 

JUDITH ABLETT KERR†† No, and in fairness it only went to her last week so Iíve got to give her time to read the letter but the call for the Royal Commission of Inquiry was of course spear headed by the research of Professor Hayne,Iíll also point out to the Minister all the things that were absolutely unfair about the trial process itself. When I have been thinking as I have for quite some time about the Ellis case ..If we go to London to the Privy Council, weíve got a strong case.†† If we win, which I expect that we would then at the end of the day weíre still going to have to have a commission of inquiry of some kind, because a Privy Council appeal will not answer the questions about what happened at the Christchurch Civic Creche and how on earth we got into this situation

 

 

MARY WILSON -Thatís lawyer Judith Ablett Kerr. She is the lawyer for Peter Ellis.