The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

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Otago Daily Times
December 16 2008

Dunedin supporters welcome Ellis inquiry breakthrough
by Debbie Porteous

                                    Peter Ellis


A decision by Justice Minister Simon Power to consider a request for a commission of inquiry into the case of convicted Christchurch child-care worker Peter Ellis is a hopeful sign, say the Dunedin authors of a letter requesting the inquiry.

"[The Peter Ellis case] is the Arthur Allan Thomas case of our generation and someone has to have the political will and judgement to take another look at [it]," former National Party list MP Katherine Rich, of Dunedin, said yesterday.

Mrs Rich and Dunedin author Lynley Hood, who wrote a book pointing out flaws in the police investigation and case, along with former National Party leader Don Brash, wrote to Mr Power last week requesting the inquiry.

All have previously put their names to earlier calls - the most recent of which was knocked back in May by former associate justice minister Rick Barker.

Mrs Rich said she had become interested in the case after reading Mrs Hood's book and after discussing it with Dr Brash in Parliament, the pair made contact with the author.

Mrs Rich echoed comments from Mrs Hood, who said Mr Power's decision was encouraging.

The last commission of inquiry into a criminal case in New Zealand was ordered in the 1970s by then prime minister the late Sir Robert Muldoon in relation to the conviction of Arthur Allan Thomas.

That inquiry was conducted by an Australian judge.

"The thing is . . . politicians have to grasp the nettle and say this is never going to go away and let's deal with it," Mrs Hood said.

A spokesman for Mr Power said the minister was approaching the issue with an open mind.

He intended to seek a briefing from officials and then consider the letter.

Ellis was convicted in 1993 of sexually molesting children at the Christchurch Civic Creche, where he worked.

One of the seven preschoolers he was found guilty of abusing later retracted the allegations and three of Ellis' convictions were quashed.

Fresh doubts were cast last year on the evidential interviews of children in the case in research findings by Otago University academic Prof Harlene Hayne.

She said there was a "strong risk" the evidence of children who told of sexual abuse by Ellis was contaminated by the way the interviews were carried out.

She urged the courts to reconsider the case.