The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

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January 30th, 2008

Do the Right Thing on Ellis case
by David Farrar

Some issues are beyond politics. The Peter Ellis case and convictions are one of them.

I totally endorse the call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Ellis case.  One needs the latitude a full commission of inquiry has, to deal with the public’s deep scepticism over this case.

It should be in the interest of all politicians for there to be confidence in the justice system.  The Ellis case corrosively undermines that confidence.  While convictions are not a public popularity contest, I know of almost no-one who thinks the Ellis convictions are safe.  And this is based on a massive amount of published research on the case.

Annette King is the Minister of Justice. It is a pity she will not consider the merits of the case herself (she cites conflict as she is also Police Minister) as I have considerable regard for her judgement and ability. I think she could and would see the bigger picture (it is not just about Ellis who is now free - it is about the wider justice system). Lianne Dalziel can not be delegated the case, so it will fall to Clayton Cosgrove or Rick Barker.

The Minister who deals with this needs to be able to consider the issues carefully using their own judgement. They should not merely ask officials for a report and rubber-stamp it. I can tell you now that of course the Ministry of Justice will oppose a Royal Commission  into the Ellis case.

I know many (not all) National MPs have a deep concern over the Ellis case. Katherine Rich and Don Brash helped lead the charge a few years ago for such a Commission. While I can in no way speak for them, I am sure National would in no way criticise the Government if it did hold a Royal Commission.  And I think all the minor parties would be supportive.

There will be a lot of partisan behaviour this year in the NZ blogosphere.  What would be great though is to have as many blogs as possible join a campaign for an Ellis Royal Commission.  We have one of the true experts on the case with Poneke, and could keep the case in profile by doing stuff ranging from all displaying a prominent graphic calling for the Royal Commission, to pledging to blog or link to a blog on the issue at least a fortnight or something. I am sure Poneke could generate enough material for us to link to or summarise.


19 Responses to “Do the Right Thing on Ellis case”

poneke Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 9:11 am

That is a fine suggestion, David. The research by Harlene Hayne that blew apart the Eichelbaum report has certainly shaken the officials who have so far stopped governments of all parties from having a proper inquiry into this case.


pdm Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 9:14 am

God forbid if Barker reviews it - he will only do what Helen tells him.

Different case but I see in todays DomPost that Scott Watson has been disciplined for an `alleged’ assault on another prisoner.


John Dalley Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 9:29 am

I have always been concerned with what i beleive was the rail-roading of Ellis. Didn’t catch it all on National radio yesterday arvo but the lady mentioned that of the 14.000 odd questions asked of the children involved, that only about 11 where considered safe (i.e. unloaded) questions to ask children.


poneke Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 10:06 am

Well, the full details of the research that was cited, including the question statistics, is here.


poneke Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 10:07 am

And a full transcript of the interview is here.


Captain Crab Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 10:46 am

Something is needed. This case is a blot on what is generally a fair Justice system. Ellis has been treated shamefully and the discarding of the appropriate experts to investigate and report is a travesty and imho another example of Labours blatant political manipulation of the public service for their own ends.


Paulus Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 10:53 am

Having re-read Lynley Hood’s book in view of the recent revelations contained in the NZ Law Journal concerning the views taken by a Justice Department official, “assisting” Eichelbaum at the time. The lead questions should be addressed to this person, now a senior Law Commission officer, no doubt now being able to give a PC plausible answer, in the absence of the late judge.

There is every reason for a full enquiry to take place. Questions must be asked in public. Damn the cost - an open and honest society is more important as this has been sorely damaged recently.

This is not only concerning a miscarriage of justice for Peter Ellis, for which the law itself must decide, but for the vested involvement of a number of people following these revelations.


Ruth Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 10:58 am

Great idea. If a trust or the like is set up to support Ellis’s case I know several people who would like to donate - myself included.


PhilBest Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 11:31 am

And if Peter Ellis was a woman………….


Frank. Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 11:47 am

So at last, movement in the Peter Ellis case, possibly the worst miscarriage of justice in New Zealand since Arthur Alan Thomas as the result of the call for a Royal Commission of Enquiry.

Surely this call is a reflection of the imperfect Justice System we have in New Zealand.

The root cause of the public lack of confidence in our justice system is as a s a result of our lack of confidence in the Office of the Commissioner.

The Dame Margaret Bazley report was damning enough, but was very restrictive. It revealed it was only the tip of the iceberg.

Look at the disgraceful Police Investigation into the 2005 election proceedings, which brought about no prosecutions despite the unlawful use of Taxpayer’s money. This allowed the disgraceful Validation Act, the EFA etc.

Rickard walked away with a golden handshake. Why did police bury the original complaint against Field? Why weren’t the Correction Officers found guilty in 2005 of smuggling in cell-phones, weapons, drugs etc. for prisoners not charged?

Look at all the State Services in house investigations that do not result in prosecutions. With over 220,000 State Servants, how many are charged?

Yet we have the state services Commissioner (Of Corngate fame) standing down before his time! Why?


John Dalley Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Phil. Peter Ellis was not the only one charged at the time, several woman creche workers where also charged and though i don’t remember the details, they where found not guilty.
That alone at the time made me seriously question the judgement, and could only conclude at the time that he was only found guilty because he was a male.


John Dalley Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

On the White Charger again i see Frank.


slightlyrighty Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 12:08 pm

When the Cabinet reshuffle was announced, I speculated that Annette King holding both police and justice portfolios may be a conflict of interest. It appears I have been proven correct, although it may well be just a convenient dodge on the part of Ms King.


Joely Doe Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 1:21 pm

John - I believe the charges against the women were dropped. They were not found ‘Not Guilty’. Personally, I think the prosecution realized how nonsensical the charges would have seemed, had the women been charged as well. All the more plausible if it came down to an individual.


Rex Widerstrom Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 3:12 pm

While I wholeheartedly support a proper independent review of the Ellis case, it’s only one of a multitude of miscarriages of justice that occur in NZ and will continue to occur if the system is not subject to a fundamental review and overhaul.

As Frank. says:

Surely this call is a reflection of the imperfect Justice System we have in New Zealand.

It’s not good fixing one case (admittedly a high-profile case and one of the worst instances of miscarriages of justice in NZ judicial history) and not fixing the system that allowed it to occur.

Hundreds of ‘lesser’ cases of injustice occur every year, but because the evidence of such miscarriages is less obvious and less dramatic than the Ellis case, and the penalties meted out less severe, there simply isn’t the will, resources or time for them to be taken up as a cause as Ellis’s has.

And John Dalley, that you can smugly dismiss Frank as “on his white charger” for raising the spectre of injustices beyond the well-known cases of Ellis, Thomas et al clearly means you or a member of your family hasn’t been a vicitim. In which case, think yourself lucky. But realise that you could easily be, and that those of us “on our white chargers” are trying to protect you as much as anyone else.


Frank. Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 3:16 pm

John Dalley:

Why is it that you try to rubbish the Truth? You obviously dislike facts.
Prove me wrong?


grumpyoldhori Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 5:27 pm

Great post David, it was an utter disgrace that Peter Ellis was found guilty, I wonder,
guilty because he is gay? A Royal Commission with a retired UK or Aussie judge in the chair. Helped by other UK or Aussie people. Do I trust our cops in this matter, well just look at who is the head cop. A cop having an affair with a witness, not good form that. So, would all that ACC money have to be paid back if the commission found it was all a load of bollocks ?


Michael E Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Perhaps a Royal Commission is a little premature. The last I heard Ellis (no relation) was applying to have an appeal heard at the Privy Council.

A Royal Commission would be a good idea, but only after the legal process is fully exhausted.


ross Says:
January 30th, 2008 at 7:58 pm

No, Michael, a Royal Commission is not premature. You obviosuly didn’t hear Judith Ablett Kerr being interviewed yesterday. She said: “If we win [in London], which I expect that we would, then at the end of the day we’re 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.”

That’s exactly right. Quashing Ellis’ conviction is only part of the solution. Making sure this never happens again is another. But how can we ensure that this never happens again if we don’t know how we created this mess?