Decision compounds failure of criminal justice system
by Chris Trotter. Otago Daily Times, August 12th 2005
I was one of those who signed the petition organised by Don Brash and Lynley Hood calling for a Royal
Commission of Inquiry into the arrest, trial and conviction of Peter Ellis in the Christchurch civic creche case.
While recommending a number of worthwhile changes to the legal web in which the unfortunate Mr Ellis became entangled, the petitioners’ request for a full and independent investigation, conducted by a legal expert from outside New Zealand, was declined. As a result, the catastrophic failure of our criminal justice system, represented by the Ellis case, will endure unacknowledged, unexamined, uncorrected, and unreproved.
And unfortunate, because miscarriages of justice on the scale of the Ellis case exert a pernicious influence on every one of the institutions that they touch. Local government, the police, social welfare, the courts, the judiciary and now Parliament have all been tainted by their involvement. In every instance, ignorance, fear, and the singular reluctance of institutional authorities to ever admit to error, have combined to exacerbate and extend the original injustice.
The most alarming aspect of this institutional infection is that the longer it is allowed to continue, the higher it rises. What began as an expression of individual and collective hysteria gradually morphed into the exercise of civic, police and, ultimately, judicial power. At every stage, the application of scientific and forensic rationality could have brought the whole manic process to an end.
Sadly, a malign confluence of individual obsession, ideological dogma, religious bigotry and reckless careerism pushed the case forward to the point where a great many reputations, both individual and institutional, had become inextricably bound up with Ellis’s fate.
There is something truly horrifying about this failure of our judicial system. Not only did it condemn a man whose guilt was in more than reasonable doubt to 10 years in prison, but it conferred upon Peter Ellis’s accusers an undeserved and entirely spurious credibility. The groups responsible for the “witch craze” that we know as the Christchurch Civic Creche child abuse scandal: all those “ritual abuse” peddlers, “recovered memory” counsellors, “all men are rapists” feminists, “children never lie” social workers and “Satan is among us” Christian fundamentalists, have never been called to account.