Horror Stories from the COSA files – True Stories of False Accusations
Where necessary, names and identifying details have been changed.
Letter From a Prisoner Nov 1994
Peter Dec 1994
John’s Poem: Once were women? Jan/Feb 1995
Letter from a Prisoner Apr 1995
Falsely accused father Mar 1996
Graham Apr 1996
Ken May 1996
Lesbian nurse seduces patient Jun 1996
Jo Dec 1996
Alan Collier – accused of rape, released on appeal Jan / Feb 1997
Peter Lynch Jan / Feb 1997
Roger Smythe Mar 1997
Arthur Apr 1997
The case of David Dougherty May 1997
David Dougherty case update Dec 1997
Michael May 1997
Ernest and Betty Jun 1997
Letter to COSA Jun 1997
"I am to attend a jury trial at the High Court, charged with sexual abuse. There is no basis at all for the charges, no evidence, only the recovered "memories" of three of my daughters; how can there be, I honestly never laid a hand on any of them, or made any obscene suggestion. My legal costs will be in excess of $120,000, This being half my equity after a lifetime of hard work. The lawyer says if convicted, I could expect to serve 7 years – a life sentence as I’m nearly 59. So I hired a QC.
When I received a letter from a daughter I’d had a good father-daughter friendship with, saying she now remembered being abused as a tiny child, I was stunned. Thinking maybe a mental breakdown was involved, I called on her mother (we’d parted 9 years ago) and was told that the others also alleged sexual abuse, but would not tell their mother any details, saying "if I say I’ve been sexually abused, I have". They had accused her of complicity: she had been a full-time care giver, devoted to her kids – she said it was like a kick in the guts. Puzzled, hurt, I tried to find the reason for this: hatred from kids I would have died for.
The article by Camille Guy in the NZ Herald (30 Oct 1993) was the first time I’d heard about false memory syndrome. I read Felicity’s book. It all added up. I’d like to thank Dr Goodyear-Smith for her work; also Dr Dennis Dutton, and all the members of the support group, whose support has helped my wife and I to survive – sure we’re under great stress, but no longer alone. Indeed, feel strong enough to support others worse off. Congratulations to the kindy lady on her acquittal with costs, and to John on his acquittal. Hope he now gets access to his son, and can rebuild his life.
What of the police role in all this? I guess they are not accountable, don’t have to worry about the waste of it, are very quick to arrest if the charge is abuse, and having done so are concerned only with obtaining a conviction. At the deposition hearing, of the 2 sexual abuse counsellors produced as police witnesses, one had shredded her notes, and the other had kept only a few cryptic sentences she couldn’t interpret, and neither can remember ANYTHING! except that the symptoms were of sexual abuse— The police made a solemn undertaking to make available the ACC statements of the complainants.
At the first call-over, this had not been done, and the Crown agreed to a deferment to allow for these documents to be produced; at the second call-over they said they would now contest the discovery of the said ACC documents. What possible motive could they have not to give out information that could lead to the truth? Perhaps the facts might hinder a conviction.
The main problem with being accused of sexual abuse is that you can’t enlist public opinion. I’ve told all my friends and relatives, but have a 7 year old son who often has friends to visit. I’d like to expose what is happening, to fight the counsellors who think that every client must have suffered sexual abuse as a child, and who are so adept at creating false memories: but would my son have his social life spoiled? Thanks again COSA, see you at the meeting.
Bill – a Small Step Towards Common Sense
In a landmark case, on the 30 September a 59 year old man, Bill (not his real name) was acquitted by a jury in the Auckland High Court on charges of sexually abusing three of his daughters about 20 years ago. The complainants alleged sodomy and rape, and indecent acts such as the insertion of a coat hanger in the vagina causing bleeding and loss of consciousness. The women claimed they had suppressed the memories which had only resurfaced in later life. All three daughters had attended therapy and made claims for damages from ACC before they laid the criminal charges against their father. Two of the daughters reported memories of events happening in their cots when aged one year old or less. Bill was defended by Mr Peter Williams, QC, who dismissed evidence based on "recovered memories" as dangerous and fallacious.
The mother of the girls, Bill’s former defacto wife, gave evidence (for the Crown) that she had never noticed any indication of such abuse taking place. She had never seen any signs on her girls of the violent trauma they now claimed to have suffered, and she nor had she ever encountered blood on their sheets and clothing.
Clinical psychologist Eileen Swan, expert witness for the Crown, supported the phenomenon of "memory retrieval". She told the jury that it was possible for people to block out memories of unpleasant events as a psychological mechanism if they were "too hard to deal with". These memories could return piecemeal at a later date. Ms Swan claimed that there is a "paucity of knowledge on memory" but admitted that her life is so busy she has trouble keeping up with her education on the subject.
Dr Frank Rawlinson, a psychiatrist called for the defence, has read widely and deeply on the topic. He recently visited America and consulted with some of the leading professionals in memory research, and returned with a large number of current books and articles, including Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketcham’s The Myth of Repressed Memory: false memories and allegations of sexual abuse. Dr Rawlinson compared the use of recovered memory in sexual abuse cases to the 16th and 17th century witch-hunts in Europe. He said that whilst recovered memory theory (or any other theory) could never be disproved, there was no scientific evidence to date to substantiate such a belief. He explained that on the other hand it is very easy to create false memories. He disputed Ms Swan’s claim that people repress memories of traumatic events as a psychological mechanism. He explained that adults have no memories of childhood under the age of 3, and the alleged memories by two of the daughters at the age of one or younger were not possible.
In his summing up, Justice Sir Ian Barker told the jury they had to decide whether there was indeed repressed memory of sexual abuse which had been retrieved, and whether that memory was reliable. The jury concluded that these were not accurate memories of real events.
Bill was found to be innocent. It cost him $117,000 to defend himself. His three daughters were found to have made false allegations. Each received at least $10,000 "compensation" from ACC, which is not effected by the outcome of the trial.
This case brings up many issues. There are currently men in prison convicted solely on the basis of "recovered memories" (reconstructed visualisations) of incidents alleged to have occurred 2 or 3 decades ago. If Bill had not been able to afford the best in legal representation and psychiatric expertise, it is very likely he would have joined them. Possible future actions for those falsely accused through "memory retrieval" include applying for court costs from the Crown, and legal action against therapists who have implanted or supported the false memories. The anomaly of compensating those who make false accusations might also be addressed.
Already there has been a trend for people who recover memories in therapy to later change their testimony and declare that in fact they had always remembered the trauma. One of Bill’s daughters did this just this. Although her counsellor had "shredded the counselling notes" and hence had no records to which to refer, she testified that her client had always remembered her abuse. However, examination of the daughter’s initial police statement revealed that she had told the police that she had only discovered the abuse in the course of her therapy. Complainants stating that they had always remembered the abuse in not a course of action likely to occur in America. This is because their Statute of Limitations allows law suits relating to alleged long ago events on the basis that the Statute starts from the time the "memory" was exhumed.
This is the first case in New Zealand where a jury has decided that "recovered memories" are not reliable evidence. Although a great step forward, there is still a long way to go. Many professionals still believe that memories can be repressed and accurately retrieved, despite there being no scientific evidence to support this. A stream of American "experts" continue to teach that recovered memories are valid, and there is a reluctance within the sexual abuse industry to examine any evidence which challenges their beliefs. Critics who claim that some sexual allegations might be false are labelled as part of the "backlash" and accused of supporting paedophiles.
Extract from Bill’s application to ACC for costs.
"As a result of inept counselling by ACC-funded health professionals, devastating emotional and financial damage was inflicted on me.
Despite 100s of persons "recovering" memories of abuse by aliens from outer space, despite investigations of 100s of cases of "memories" of satanic ritual abuse, not one of which could be substantiated, belief appears to be held for the authenticity of recovered memories by many ACC-registered sexual abuse therapists.
Four such therapists appeared for the Prosecution at my trial. One had deliberately shredded her notes. By trial time this daughter said she had always had the memories – fortunately we had her original statement to the police which stated "I first started having bad memories of my father in late 1989". This therapist avoided some questions saying she had no memory, yet testified that my daughter "had suffered childhood trauma consistent with sexual abuse". This daughter had twice suffered, at age 4 and 6, from Guillan Barr Syndrome (creeping paralysis), an extremely savage and painful sickness. The 1st time she was not expected to live, the 2nd not expected to walk unaided. Both times on life support, unable to breath. Anything more traumatic would be hard to imagine.
Another therapist refused to produce her notes. None of the therapists were objective. None even attempted independently to verify the serious accuations. The girl’s mother said at Depositions that one daughter had told her "your problems can only have been caused by sexual abuse as a child". Many of the allegations were quite ludicrous, including detailed memories at age of 1, in their cots! How could ACC reinforce my daughters’ delusions by accepting their claims for compensation?
- The jury threw out all 11 charges against me.I now suffer from:
- Loss of the accusing daughters, and my relationship with their mother. Love has turned to hate.
- I was obliged to pay legal expenses over $125,000. Our average annual total family income for the previous 5 yrs was <$20,000, so this has caused much stress. I pay 12% on this borrowed money.
- I still suffer the nightmare of being arrested, processed by police, held in jail, threatened by another prisoner etc. I couldn’t believe such things could be doen in NZ to an innocent person. I felt the only way out was my suicide. My likely sentence was 12 yrs if found guilty.
I am now seeking damages from ACC."
Bill – Injustice Done and Seen to be Done
After my trial and acquittal in Sept 1994 on charges stemming from "recovered memories", I applied for costs. After 9 months, these were granted, on the Justice Dept’s scale of fees. Of the $125,000 plus I had spent, the judge awarded me $10,800. This is less than the Crown received from me in the GST content of my costs!
Where on earth could you get a lawyer to represent you for a week in the High Court, plus the preliminary hearings, extracting the complainant’s ACC "stories" from a completely unco-operative ACC, interview witnesses etc, for $10,800 ? Does the Crown Prosecutor work for this ?
As Judge William J. Groff said in his landmark case "The phenomenon of recovered memories is beyond the life experience of the average juror….". With 4 therapists appearing as Crown witnesses, it was vital that I had a good psychiatrist to debunk their misguided theories. His very reasonable fees alone amounted to most of the costs awarded.
With 26 High Court judges in NZ, surely one will challenge the admissibility of recovered memories as evidence.
Before the trial, a very farsighted family friend said, " In two years time, you’ll look back and shrug all this off. Your business will prosper, and your financial position will be as if this had never happened. The ones I feel sorry for are your accusers – they will realise they made a terrible mistake." Well, on the good side, my finances have bounced back, I’m cheerfully enjoying life, and I shall always be grateful for the support and help of COSA members, friends and family.
To all those who have had their lives devastated by false accusations, I wish you the strength to carry on. It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that matters in the long run."
Letter From a Prisoner 1
"In April 1994 I was sentenced to 4 yrs 5 mths for a crime I most certainly didn’t commit. I have done nearly 18 months. Because my crime was seen as being "violent" I have to serve 3 yrs.
After a week long trial, inspite of my emphatic plea of "not guilty", and no proof to say otherwise, the jury found me guilty on 4 of the 8 trumped up charges of sexual violation… These charges were brought through an ex-girlfriend of mine involving her 2 daughters, mostly for finacial gain (she was given $19,800 in compensation). I must assure you that I am completely innocent of all those charges…
The only evidence presented was the uncorroborated and unsubstantiated statements of the 2 girls. The police interviewer admitted the techniques she used in the video interview could be seen as "preparing or coaching" and she defended the interviewer’s right to do so. The social worker admitted, after thorough questioning, that she had also "coached" these witnesses. When questioned about certain alleged events, both girls couldn’t follow the scenarios completely and stated that they were only saying what the police interviewer and the social worker had told them to say. Their stories differed in very important details and descriptions.
My story is only one of the few similar ones that abound in this prison and we have formed a small support group."
"August 8 this year marked the 6th anniversary of the time when my world caved in as a result of being accused of sexually abusing my (then) 7 year old son. The accusation of course was false but it took me exactly 22 months to prove this, and the judge (in April 1990) declared I had not abused my son.
Shortly after this deeply traumatising period in my life, my 3 children (2 older girls and my son) voluntarily came into my care and I obtained legal custody and guardianship of all three.
Because my life has been turned upside-down, and having avowed to seek some accountability, I have made it my mission over the past 2 years to get to the bottom of exactly what happened and why and how it occurred…
I now have the evidence to enable me to challenge all those involved, and challenge them I intend to. For a long time I thought maybe my situation was an isolated case (in 1988 there were no support groups or recorded cases of false allegations) and I felt very alone, however I now realise that very many guys (families) are going through very similar shattering experiences.
Upon attending my 1st COSA meeting, imagine my surprise to see at least 20 people all telling the same or very similar story to mine, a real cross-section of society, old, young, maybe wealthy, maybe not so wealthy. And obviously many more out there who had not come to the meeting I was at.
For 2 years I was acting from a position of complete powerlessness, I was constantly reacting to situations which were beyond my control. Events would happen and I would respond, letters would arrive and I would respond. Always on the back foot, on the defensive. Now things are different – I’m asking the questions, writing the letters, demanding the action, and believe me it makes a big difference.
The problem is here, it’s not going to go away, that so many families are being affected by false allegations is a scandal… There are some serious flaws in the system, unfairness, inequality and injustice. There are people who have their own hidden agenda (sometimes not so hidden), and yes there are many people earning huge amounts of money from the abuse industry.
We can fight back, get organised, write letters, demand our right to be heard, demand our day in court, demand justice. If you love your kids, if you have done nothing wrong, don’t want to get trampled on, don’t want to go to jail, if you believe in yourself and know you are right, then fight back.Lets help ourselves and each other. I for one wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through. It appears 100s are going to have to.
If 1994 has been year of the family, lets make 1995 the year when Casualties of Sexual Allegations started fighting back."
This poem is a contribution from John, a COSA member accused of abusing his teenage daughter, even though she strongly supported him and maintained his innocence!
Once were women?
Bending gender role
In every male soul.
Masculine is violent –
Born in baby boys!
Fostered by their fathers
And angry plastic toys?
Don’t trust a man with children
You know they’re all the same.
No child needs a father
Every man’s to blame.
Judicial Torquemada –
Guilty – no redress!
Denying means you’re lying,
Save your soul – confess
Leave the world to women
(Such lovely gentle folk)
Breed men in captivity
For girls who need a bloke.
Or listen to your anger
And find out where it feeds:
Do you need your enemy
To hide your own misdeeds?
Letter from a Prisoner 2
"..Believe me at present I am desperately in need of someone to talk to about my helpless situation, as of today I have been in this prison 2 years. Ever since that 1st day they admitted me into here, I have been constantly fighting a campaign of my innocence. I only wish it was possible to take my case to the Privy Council, however that is a hopeless dream.. because I have neither the resources or the ability.
I think that accountability should be the standard that a good justice system should have! Surely the basic principle of British justice is an accused will be deemed innocent until guilt is proved beyond reasonable doubt…
I was found guilty of systemastically molesting my daughters between the years 1960 to 65. The prosecution had to rely on recovered memories soley. Surely these factors should have raised the required reasonable doubt.. never mind the fairytale nature of my daughters’ disclosures.
Not once have my daughters faced me with these allegations. Repeated efforts to talk face to face with them about these allegations have failed. I know with absolute certainty that no incidents of sexual abuse ever took place with my daughters and I, however my daughters are adamant in their beliefs – and believe me it is impossible to shake them.
How did my daughters get these horrific ideas into their heads?
Both my ex-wife of 18 years and I have been put through hell by this lot. How come these counsellors can cause so much misery and enormous heart-break to families. I would like the chance to front up to these counsellors – but for some unknown reason – we are not allowed to meet them – or even know their names…
Surely something just has to be done, to prevent these sort of things from happening to innocent people. The very thought that members of my family had been allowed to receive large sums of money, for reasons of monetary gain, has shattered my world.
I appreciate that sexual abuse must not be condoned at all, but as an innocent father aged 64 presently serving a sentence of 12 years in prison, for something that’s not true…
For the past 18 years since my adult children’s mother and I separated after 27 years of marriage, my daughters have harboured deep hurt resentment and anger towards both parents…. Accusing me of being a disciplinary father… Since being in prison I have done a lot of soul searching, my situation has become deeply haunting for me. I must admit that as a father of 8 children, they only received a minimum amount of personal attention, affection, love – also a minimum time of nurturance. My daughters have since accused me of being a judgemental father.. they saw themselves as small and helpless..
My daughters are now believed to be also seeking revenge against their mother, she is a sickness beneficiary the result of 2 heart strokes.
I am not afraid of my name being printed, because I haven’t done anything wrong to my daughters. Thank goodness the Lord knows the truth about me. God bless you."
(name withheld by editor)
Adam met Beth in 1986. They began a relationship which was volatile and marked by several split-ups. She became unexpectedly pregnant in 1988 and went to live on her own. One week before her delivery, she returned to Adam saying she wanted to be married, and he agreed to marry her. Their daughter Cindy was born and for the next 1Ã‚Â½ years they lived together although there were a number of arguments and break-ups.
By early 1989 they were living in the same house but in separate bedrooms. Adam always bathed Cindy at Beth’s request, to give her some "time out" from child care.
Soon after this Beth left Adam, taking Cindy with her. Later that year she made an allegation to the police that Adam had sexually abused their daughter. The police decided there was not a case to answer but these allegations later formed the basis of an access dispute in the Family Court in 1991. Unbeknown to him, Beth had concealed a video camera in the bathroom and videotaped the bathing sessions for 3 evenings in a row. This videotape was one of the prime pieces of evidence she put forward.
The judge concluded that on the basis of the evidence, there was no indication that there had been any sexual abuse whatsoever. With respect to the videotape, he said it was "testimonial of the husband’s ability to cope with this lively child over what became extended periods of bathing of½ to Ã‚Â¾ of an hour" and that "Cindy is a lively and alert child and was an enthusiastic participant in these bathing sessions". Adam was granted full access for 2 days a week.
Beth later brought another charge of sexual abuse against Adam, but again the police concluded that there was no evidence that any abuse had occurred.
Despite the police findings, Beth continued to accuse Adam. She made a claim to ACC and received compensation for her daughter.
Adam found the continual allegations and threats from his ex-wife extremely hard to handle. He found the ongoing situation very stressful and developed difficulty sleeping, loss of energy, depression and suicidal thoughts. He was diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from the stress of being falsely accused. Adam lodged a claim with ACC for mental trauma caused by these allegations. ACC accepted his claim and he was compensated for his injury.
Despite the decisions of the family court, Beth still makes it very difficult for him to have any access to Cindy.
Falsely accused father
"It would be very interesting for someone to do a study on the cost to the country of false allegations. Not just in money terms but emotional terms as well. In my case the lawyers cost $68,000 but that was my cost but there are so many costs that the state pay: consultants, psychologists, social workers, CYPS, police, judge, witness fees and other so-called professionals that are used. But there is a much more sadder side to these false allegations and that is the emotional side. The families that are destroyed, the innocent children that are emotionally torn apart and used by these so-called professionals as emotional footballs in an appalling situation that they are unable to handle.
In my case the 2 children that had been living with me for over 2 years were taken by police from school to live with their mother. They were not allowed any contact with me not even to say goodbye. They took no clothes, toys or pets. Both children were told they were not safe with the father they loved. Both children ran away from their mother but couldn’t understand they weren’t allowed to be with me. My son was taken back by police to his mother and 2 days later ran away again. He was then placed in a foster home by CYPS. He was not allowed any contact with his family for 6 weeks. He then went to live with his grandfather. Later my daughter went to live there as well.
Both children still have nightmares and are still upset. They visit me every weekend and we are trying to mend.
How many more families are being ripped apart the way mine has been by false allegations? When it is all over the cost still goes on for these families. Sadly some are so badly hurt they are unable to come together.
We read and hear so much about the victims of abuse but there is also other victims – victims of false allegations. I believe they need more support as they are put through the mill and then left to fend for themselves.
We need all the publicity we can get for these people. We need to be yelling it from the roof tops."
In 1991 Graham was accused of sexually abusing his two step-daughters Hannah and Irene when they were 14 and 13 years of age during the mid 1980s. Graham had overwhelming evidence to disprove the allegations, but he found himself "prejudged guilty" by the authorities, and the matter proceeded to court. He was found not guilty on all charges, but his defence cost him his life savings of 40 years. Evidence heard by the court included testimony from a social worker assigned to the older girl, Hannah, who gave details of her frequent "scheming and making up stories". A former foster-parent of the girl also gave similar testimony. Hannah admitted in court of having made up sexual allegations against other men in the past.
Both girls were paid $10,000 in compensation by ACC. The younger step-daughter has since admitted that the allegations were untrue. Graham’s wife Katherine, who is the girls’ mother, was always sure the accusations were false, and believed they had partly arisen through their resentment of his marrying her.
Four years later, in 1995, the elder sister again laid charges against Graham (now aged 68). This time he was alleged to have molested Hannah’s 3 year old daughter, Jasmine. Apparently the little girl had initially claimed that Larry, a boarder living in the house with her and her mother, had touched her vagina. Larry and Hannah talked to the little girl and insisted it could not have happened, but asked whom else it might have been. The girl later named her "Poppa" Graham as having done it.
The transcript of Jasmine’s videotape interview by a CYPS social worker shows gross inconsistencies in her story. The child does not know her own age, and is unable to adequately answer questions about "truth" and ‘lies". Although under prompting she does say that "Poppa touched me down on the gigga" she also answers "Poppa" when asked who gives her "good touches that she likes". Many of her responses are clearly choosing one of the two alternatives offered in the closed questions she is asked. For example:
Interviewer: Did it just happen once or more than once?
Jasmine: More than once.
Interviewer: So how many times might it have happened?
Jasmine: Don’t know. Only one time.
Despite the history of the complaint and the nature of her testimony, Graham was again arrested and charged. His charges were dropped in Dec 1994 when the evidence was presented at a District Court depositions hearing.
Nick Wills – Law Student Falsely Accused of Rape
Hamilton law student Nick Wills was accused of brutally raping a woman called Wendy who lived in his hall of residence. She described a detailed assault and also named him as a serial rapist. At the time in question he was in fact not at home, but out at a bar with a good friend. The police however ignored the evidence of his alibi and charged him. He lost his job as warden of the residence, was subject to harassment and there was a planned poster campaign to publish his name on campus (not actioned on legal advice). He faced about 9 years in prison if convicted.
Nick, his parents Bruce Wills, previously a police detective, and Viv D’Or, a researcher, and his lawyer, Warren Scotter, were horrified at the presumption of guilt by the police and conducted their own investigation. Amongst other things they discovered that Wendy had a rich fantasy life and told friends many untrue stories such as her father owning his own plane. They also established further alibis for Nick.
This information was given to the police, and when they had demonstrated that Wendy was consistently lying to them, she admitted that she had never been raped.
Wendy was convicted of making a false complaint, sentenced to 150 hours community service and to pay Nick Wills $5000. Although the judge recommended her name be made public, Wendy with the support of Rape Crisis managed to obtain name suppression through the courts.
Wendy has now changed her story again to say that she was really raped, but it was a case of mistaken identity. This is the version believed by Rape Crisis spokeswoman Toni Allwood, who said how easy it is for a traumatised woman to make a mistake, and spoke of the desperation of victims to be believed. She felt that Wendy had been "very harshly punished" by the courts and was outraged at the suggestion that what had happened to Nick was in any way comparable to the effects of rape – such an idea "minimised the reality of rape" and "could only be made by a man".
I would suggest that the trauma Nick suffered from Wendy’s false allegations was considerable. He lost his job and had to endure the reaction of people who believed her; he faced a long prison sentence, the destruction of his career and the life-long effects of a rape conviction; he felt betrayed by the system he had confidence in to protect him; and it cost him $20,000. His parents also suffered extreme distress. Rape victims often describe their loss of trust in men; men who are falsely accused similarly become distrustful of women as well as the justice system which they had believed would protect the innocent.
Falsely accused student awarded compensation
Nick Wills, the 22 year old Hamilton law student falsely accused of rape by a fellow student, has been awarded $30,000 compensation for wrongful arrest and for being sacked from his job. The award is from the police and from his employer, the Bryant Hall Trust Board. The money has gone on paying off his $27,000 legal bill accrued to prove his innocence.
Nick says that he is still suffering from deep personal scars from spending 3 months under suspicion of being a rapist, and that despite all the evidence and the public knowledge of the case he knows that "there are people who still think there’s something in it". He feels the need to have an alibi at all times and is uneasy around women he does not know.
Although the Police Complaints Authority admitted they had made mistakes in the investigation of the rape complaint against Nick, they decided not to take any disciplinary action against Detective Chris Scahill, the officer in charge of the investigation. This is despite the fact that the police had failed to check Nick’s alibi at the time of the alleged offence, police medical evidence was inconsistent and there were huge flaws in the woman’s story.
Ken is a 51 year old farmer (born 1944) who grew up on a farm himself. There were 5 children in his family including a younger brother Murray and an older brother Norm.
Ken’s father accidentally died in 1948 and his mother remarried in 1950. She had a further 7 children to her 2nd husband and fostered another 2. The family was very poor but with much hard work they continued to farm.
Tragedy then struck in 1963 when Ken’s stepfather Oliver died. Oliver had not made will and everything in his estate was frozen for two years. Older brother Norm was now in the army, and Ken (now aged 19) and Murray worked as shearers, fencers and shepherds, as well as looking after the home farm, to support the family of 12 and ensure their half-brothers and sisters could go to school.
Oliver owned a farm up north and once the estate was sorted out and debts paid, money was put in trust to be paid to each of Oliver’s 7 children at their 21st birthday. The farm the family now lived on was owned by Ken’s mother and her first family, but there was little equity and it mostly belonged to the rural bank. At their mother’s request, Ken and Murray leased and share-milked it for several years, and later purchased it outright in 1974, just before her death.
Ken married in 1975. Over the two decades, he and his brother continued to farm, initially jointly and later owning separate farms but often working together. The debt on the home farm was paid off and the brothers finally began to make a profit.
In the early 1980s, some of Ken’s half-brothers and sisters got together and decided that they were not happy with the amount of money they had each received from their father’s estate. They believed they had been tricked out of their inheritance by Ken and Murray, who now owned valuable farmland. A legal investigation revealed that all the
dealings were honest, but the half-siblings were not satisfied.
In 1985 several of them made allegations that Ken had sexually abused them as children. The matter was investigated, Ken adamantly denied all accusations, there was no corroboration, and the police decided there was no case to answer.
Subsequent changes in the evidential rules relating to corroboration and the relaxing of the rules relating to similar events meant that in 1993, when the siblings returned to the police, charges were now able to be laid against Ken.
Ken was arrested in February 1994 and after about 2 weeks in custody, was released on bail. His case came to trial in the High Court in March 1996.
Ken faced 20 charges. Three of his half-brothers, one of his half-sisters and one of his foster-sisters claimed that Ken regularly and brutally sexually assaulted them. The accusations included rape, sodomy and bestialities. His cruelties included beating them with pipes and other objects, and regularly leaving them bleeding from their anuses because of violent episodes of anal intercourse. The allegations spanned from 1959, when Ken would have been 14, until 1977, when he was 33, and had been a married man for 2 years.
Ken’s mother was by all reports a loving and caring mother. She apparently never noticed that her younger children were being brutalised in this way by their older brother; nor was this detected by the children’s father or by any of their school teachers.
Although the alleged events were so historical, Ken’s defence was helped by the fact that he had retained over 30 years of farming documentation. He obtained other evidence including aerial photographs of the alleged sites of the assaults. These demonstrated that attacks would have occurred in full view of the neighbouring farm house (in a little group of trees). The neighbour could testify that none of the alleged events had ever been witnessed, nor had Ken and the complainants ever been seen coming or going from the area (which was supposed to have happened regularly each afternoon). Much of their other evidence was also shown to be unfounded: for example,
one claimed he had been forced to swim the river in full flood but a meteorologist testified that records indicated the river had not flooded for many years on either side of the alleged date.
A family friend testified that one of the siblings had told him they were making the allegations because they had been cheated out of their inheritance. Various friends and family could testify that Ken was not known to be a violent man, and beating and assaulting children as alleged was completely out of character for the man they knew. A number of other inconsistencies, improbabilities and impossibilities in the complaints’ testimony was demonstrated.
The jury found Ken not guilty on all counts, to the loud applause of his supporters of family and friends present in the courtroom.
Lesbian nurse seduces patient
In 1986 a 17 year old girl named Penny began dieting and lost a lot of weight, partly in response to a boyfriend who had called her fat. She was referred to the psychiatric unit of the local hospital by her GP and a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa was made. Treatment included assistance from a dietician and family meetings involving her concerned parents and younger brother Quentin.
Penny made some improvement, but at the end of the following year she went back to the unit. She was feeling a little depressed and still had a somewhat bizarre eating pattern. She was given further assistance.
Over the next year Penny became increasingly unwell, and at the beginning of 1988 she was admitted as a hospital in-patient with symptoms of (schizophrenia-like) psychotic illness. She was treated with drugs for this disorder and given psychotherapy. This therapy included group hypnosis, dream therapy, guided imagery and suggestions from mental health workers that her illness might be caused by childhood sexual abuse.
At some time during this therapy Penny began to report having been inappropriately touched by her father Rick, when she was a child. Penny’s sexuality was also explored at this time and she identified clearly as heterosexual.
In 1989 Penny was referred to an ACC-funded psychologist for regular therapy. Her allegations against her father included oral sex and touching of her breasts from the age of 10. She also began to have some concerns that she might be lesbian.
She remained clearly unwell and required re-hospitalisation in mid 1990 because she was deluded and "hearing voices". She continued seeing the psychologist until 1991, when she was transferred to another therapist. An application was made for her to receive ACC lump sum compensation, and in 1991 she was paid $10,000 for "pain and mental suffering" and "loss of capacity for enjoying life" because of the alleged abuse by her father.
A lesbian relationship developed between Penny and Sarah, who was one of the nurses caring for her during an in-hospital stay. After she was discharged from hospital, Penny and Sarah began living together as a couple.
In 1993 Penny began to see a new ACC counsellor, Ursula. Ursula’s therapeutic techniques included hypnosis. With the support of Sarah, Ursula and other mental health professionals caring for her, Penny went to the police and laid charges against her father Rick. He was arrested in November 1993 and the case came to trial in December 1994.
Rick faced 27 charges of indecent assault and inducing his daughter to do an indecent act when she was aged 6 to 12 years, and one which was supposed to have occurred in 1989 when she was 21. On completion of the Crown’s case the judge discharged Rick on two of he counts, and at the end of the trial a jury acquitted him on all remaining counts. At that time Rick wrote "we have won the trial and lost a daughter". Penny’s mother Trish and brother Quentin have always stood by Rick.
Despite the finding of the court, Penny continued to have ACC-funded counselling for sexual abuse provided by Ursula. However about May 1995 Rick and Trish were surprised and delighted to go to their door and find Penny there, wishing to come back home. According to Penny, much of Penny’s support from her mental health professional friends, including her lover Sarah, evaporated after she "lost" the court case. When she separated from Penny in 1995, Sarah wrote her the following letter:
"I never wanted you to go from my life. I only wanted you to hear me, understand me and be there for me. I have always loved you. It is when I am stressed beyond my ability to cope that I cannot communicate my needs. The anger you hear is the frustrations of not being able to live the life we always wanted, because of the lack of privacy, time and energy.
I know I have taken on the burden of others and increased the strain until I have cracked under the pressure. I was hoping we could get through this together, that you could find the strength to support me. I am sorry that I expected too much of you as I expected too much of myself.
Right now I cannot cope with seeing you. I loved you far more than you ever know. Please be patient! I hope in time the bond we shared as lovers will cement our friendship forever. Lovingly yours always."
This letter was from a nurse at a public hospital mental health unit to a mentally ill patient she was employed to care for, a job which included the dispensing of psychiatric medications to her patient.
Penny told her parents that she knew that the abuse had not occurred; that for many years she had felt under extreme pressure to come up with a history of incest; and that she had tried to retract the allegations before the trial while she was in the mental hospital, but had not felt able to do so. She was still very unwell, suffering from schizophrenia-type symptoms and very fragile and distressed.
Penny came home to live and gave her permission for her parents to be involved in her counselling and mental health care to help her become well and take control of her life. A first step was to terminate care from Ursula, who responded by suggesting that Penny stopping counselling with her might be "an example of … sabotaging yourself when you are progressing" and suggesting that "perhaps you may be open to reconsidering your decision to stop seeing me".
Today Penny is progressing slowly. She no longer believes herself gay and is tentatively re-exploring her heterosexuality. She and her parents are working towards some redress and accountability from the professionals whom they know have been responsible for the trauma this family have suffered.
Last year, Jo’s 14 year old daughter Fran was admitted to a psychiatric unit with an acute psychotic illness. Fran had been showing signs of mental disturbance since age 10, when she developed troubles at school, eating problems and stealing. In the course of her psychotherapy, Fran began to make sexual allegations against her father. Initially these
involved only inappropriate touching, but later the allegations escalated until Fran described her father raping her 4 or 5 times the year before, when she was 13.
Jo was arrested and charged with rape. His eldest daughter Hazel also made some allegations of molestation against him, but subsequently retracted her accusations, saying they were untrue and she had only made them under pressure.
Jo’s wife did not believe the allegations, hence CYPS took all 4 of their children (including the younger 2 who had not made any sexual abuse allegations) into care because they believed she was unable to protect them.
Earlier this year Jo went to trial. Fran’s testimony was very confused and contradictory, and clearly inconsistent with the evidential facts available. The jury found him not guilty. But Jo’s troubles are far from over.
Jo went to the Family Court to regain access to his children. They continue to presume he is guilty despite the acquittal and prevent him being with his children.
Jo writes: "I am currently battling CYPS in the Family Court regarding my children. My wife now believes something has happened after talking to CYPS and the psychologist. Eldest daughter who recanted was seeing me since the trial with the 2 youngest under supervision. This access has now stopped because they believe her recanting is now a lie, even though eldest wants to see me. I’m not even allowed to write to her. Psychologist says I am hindering her healing by continuing to see her…
2nd daughter is still self-harming herself despite me saying to them you are treating and encouraging her in the lie they won’t listen to me..
I continue to struggle in keeping my own sanity in all this… sometimes I feel like running away and hiding… running out on everything… but then I come to my senses and say but I’m innocent, I’m going to fight this CYPS mania, this obsession with me…
They have turned my wife against me taken my kids off me. I have been found not guilty in a criminal court and still they are denying me…
What can I do… I feel so helpless, rejected, heartbroken…
Talk about complicated life… this is a nightmare… condemned because I maintain my innocence… The psychologist for CYPS/kids has the ???? to say I’m at a choice point in my life where I can confess my guilt or continue to cause dysfunction and upset and the like. She says whilst I deny it the eldest daughter will continue to deny it (even though she’s retracted – they now believe she’s lying). They say the 2nd daughter will not accept it [that the abuse happened] whilst I deny it happened. She’s still doing things to herself ’cause they’re not treating her real problem.. they are treating a lie and I fear now she’s believing the lie.
HOW can I win in this..??? How can I get them to see she has been lying. Condemned both ways and now CYPS/psychologist have ruined my marriage. They got my wife looking at all sorts of normal family fun and behaviour being suspect of abuse… because she missed the "cues" of me abusing the eldest two. Therein is a problem… she couldn’t see the "cues" because they weren’t there in the first place. Surely she’s been torn in two.. told she can’t care for kids unless they know whose side she’s on… so cruel.. so wrong…
I have done nothing wrong. It’s hell, and Hell and HELL! I hate it.. I have never felt so totally rejected and helpless as I do now. It’s so hard to watch the 2 youngest walk away from the access visit. My heart goes out to them… they are living amongst a lie and I can do nothing about it. Eldest daughter is not believed and her wishes being overridden by CYPS and psychologist because they know better".
Alan Collier – falsely accused of rape, released on Appeal
Jan / Feb 1997
In June 1996, a 45 year old former Northern Districts representative cricketer, was found guilty of raping a young woman in Paeroa 16 years ago, in 1980. He was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and ordered to pay $5000 reparation.
The complainant claimed that she had lived in the flat behind Collier; that he had dragged her into his flat one afternoon at 4 pm; that he had brutally raped her and then she had crawled out of his house through the back yard on her hands and knees to her own flat. She also stated that she had made a complaint to the police the next day, accompanied by acquaintances, but the police had ignored her complaint.
When arrested and charged in Dec 1995, Collier denied that he even knew the complainant, let alone raped her, and he was adamant the charges would be thrown out. However the police believed the complainant, and did not seek evidence which might demonstrate his innocence. During his trial, former police officer Brian Dunn told the court that he could not recall the complainant making her complaint in 1980. 2 people she claimed had accompanied her to the police station at that time also denied any knowledge of the rape. Their testimony was ignored.
When he was convicted, his wife Ms Mary Wano, and 2 friends Mike Cotter and Gary Deal Rue set about to find evidence to show that he could not be guilty. They found that: police officers with whom the woman and her mother claimed to have laid the rape complaint denied all knowledge of the matter; rent records showed that the complainant had moved from her flat several weeks before the alleged rape; Ministry of Works and Development records showed Collier was at work at the time of the alleged rape; a 1.8m high corrugated iron fence would have blocked her alleged escape route; she claimed her rapist was a 40 year old man, but Collier would have been 28 at the time; she was a known drug user.
In Dec 1996 Hamilton lawyer Warren Scotter presented this evidence to the Court of Appeal. Crown prosecutor Mary-Jane Thomas said that the actual date of the rape was not an important issue. However, the Court of Appeal ruled a miscarriage of justice and overturned the conviction. Collier was released from prison and will not be retried.
He is considering applying for compensation. It cost his 3 friends $20,000 and a huge amount of time and effort to obtain the necessary information, evidence that should have been sought by the police at the time the charges were laid.
Dr Fiona Cram of the Auckland University psychology department (NZ Herald 6 Jan 1997, pA9) could offer no explanation as to why the woman (inexplicably awarded name suppression, a privilege not granted to Collier) would lay a false complaint.
The possibilities are either that she deliberately and knowingly lied; or that she has come to sincerely believe in an event that did not happen. There is a large body of psychological literature explaining how the latter can occur. Research demonstrates the malleability of memory and how people can revisit their past and unwittingly create sincerely believed in but completely inaccurate or false memories.
An added factor in this case is that the complainant apparently took a drug overdose, was found in a ditch comatosed and was taken to hospital at a time soon after the alleged rape. The effect of this could mean that her memories about this period are particularly likely to be distorted or wrong.
We also have no information about whether she has ever been in counselling for this alleged rape and has "enhanced" her memories during therapy. What is particularly alarming is the fact that the complainant is now a trained psychologist, presumably seeing clients herself. She may even be registered with ACC as an approved provider for sexual abuse counselling.
It is possible that the complainant was raped by someone else and this is a case of mistaken identity; it is also possible that the entire event is a fabrication. In the absence of independent corroborative evidence, we can never know.
Jan / Feb 1997
Peter Lynch and his wife Pauline are New Zealand farmers. In 1992 the Newby family moved into a house adjacent to theirs. The couple had teenage sons and a daughter Shona, who was 13 when they first lived there. Shona was described by Pauline and others as a rather lonely girl, and Peter also felt a bit sorry for her because she was often excluded from her brothers’ activities. As they had done with other children, the Lynches invited her to join in activities on the farm. Shona accompanied Peter duck shooting on several occasions, and Pauline helped her with her pony.
Shona appeared to develop a crush on one of Peter’s farm employees, Sam Johnson. This was noticed by others, including Sam’s wife. Shona started telling stories about Sam, and in February 1993 Peter heard she was claiming that Sam was going to give up his job and move into a cottage, and Shona was to live there as his housekeeper. Peter confronted Shona and told her to stop seeing Sam. Shona became very angry and said to Peter: "I’m going to get you".
A week or two later, in March 1993, 14Ã‚Â½ year old Shona went to the police alleging that Sam Johnson had had consensual sexual relationships with her from December 1992 until February 1993.
Eleven days later she went back to the police, claiming that Peter Lynch had had non-consensual sex with her on a number of occasions in 1992 from May onwards. Several of these were claims that he had forced her to engage in oral sex and other offences when they were together in a duck shooting mai mai (hide). She said he threatened to cut her throat and had a loaded gun with him so she could not stop him. She also gave this evidence to a Children and Young Person’s Service interviewer. Her initial complaint involved 7 alleged incidents.
Shona was no stranger to talking to the police about sexual allegations. Six months earlier, in September 1992, she had made a statement to the police that a friend of hers had disclosed incest to her. Shona said she was the first person her girlfriend had ever told that her father was sexually abusing her. She subsequently appeared as a witness in this man’s trial. All charges against him were dismissed.
The following month, on 21 April 1993, Sam was charged with a number of sexual offences. Sam denied ever having had a sexual relationship with Shona. His case went to trial in July 1994, and he was acquitted on all charges.
The police did not follow up the charges against Peter for over a year after Shona first made her allegations. They first interviewed him in April 1994. In May 1994 Shona made a further statement to the police, claiming that she now remembered the last incident that Peter had molested her, which she said had taken place on Christmas day 1992. In June 1994, Peter was arrested and charged with 10 counts of indecent assault of Shona from May to 25 December 1992. The number further escalated to 12 accusations.
Peter’s case came to trial in September the following year (1995). Peter denied that any of the offences had ever taken place. The jury could not decide on a verdict and this trial resulted in a hung jury.
His second trial took place in November that year. The number of accusations had now increased to 14 different charges. He had strong alibis for the Christmas day incident, having been with his father and with a European man who was staying with them at the time. The European friend came out to New Zealand for both trials to testify this. However despite this, the jury chose to believe the complainant rather than Peter, his father, and their European friend. They found Peter guilty on 8 counts, including the Christmas Day incident. In 1995 he was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.
Peter mounted an appeal. His family and his community had always stood behind him and believed him innocent. He had numerous people prepared to be character witnesses in his defence, and a group of friends formed a committee to help fight his case. They put out regular newsletters; raised money and supported Peter, Pauline and their family throughout this time. They had a campaign to obtain CVs from his supporters, and received 256 letters.
One of the main troubles in Peter’s trials was the judges not allowing evidence regarding the complainant’s involvement in other sexual abuse allegations, which might have led to juries examining her credibility more critically. Some of the witnesses called by the prosecution in Peter’s trials had appeared in previous discredited trials with similar accusations, but the defence were not allowed to question them about these. Furthermore, even though the complainant’s own parents had said on record on at least two occasions that she was a compulsive liar and should not be believed, this was not allowed to be mentioned in the trials.
Peter’s appeal was heard in September 1996. 30 of his supporters travelled by mini-bus and private car all the way from their small town to the city where it was heard. The Appeal Court judges agreed he had grounds for a retrial and he was released from prison. Bail conditions severely restricted his movements and place of abode. He was not
allowed to come within 5 kilometres of his family home (because that was adjacent to where the complainant lived) so he and his family had to find somewhere else to live.
The cost of Peter’s first two trials and his Appeal was $115,000. Peter and Pauline then had to put their property up for sale to finance the third trial which took place in December 1996. The jury found him not guilty on all charges.
Three and a half years after the accusations were first made, Peter is now back home living with his wife and family and trying to pick up the pieces of his life.
Roger Smythe married his wife Heather in May 1985. Their first son Samuel was born in June 1986 and the family moved from New Zealand to Australia when Samuel was still a baby. A second son Matthew was born in Australia in November 1988.
At two years old, with a baby brother, Samuel was the typical "terrible two year old", attention-seeking, aggressive and unruly. Unlike most children, however, his behaviour did not settle down in the next few years, and he remained hyperactive, always trying to be the centre of attention, and often naughty. The behaviour problem persisted when he started school with him bullying other children and being disruptive in class.
The relationship between Roger and Heather deteriorated, they grew apart and had very little in common. In January 1993 Heather returned to New Zealand with her sons, now aged 6 and 4. Samuel was again a trouble-maker at his new school, being aggressive and disruptive. He was also caught playing rude games with some boys in a park, sucking each others’ penises and urinating on each other. A couple of months later he was found to have been playing similar sexual games with the 5 year old son of one of Heather’s friends. Matthew was also involved in this incident, but in general he was described by his mother as a well-behaved placid child, and Heather felt that his participation was due to Samuel’s influence.
Concerned about Samuel’s behaviour, Heather organised for him to have counselling with a family therapist, Ms Tania Stanley. Ms Stanley worked at the Catholic Family and Community Services and was recommended by Roger’s brother, who was also a counsellor. Heather and a school teacher friend felt that Samuel’s behaviour problems were probably caused by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but neither Ms Stanley nor any of the other professionals who later dealt with him, would agree.
Even before she first met Samuel, Ms Stanley clearly believed that his behaviour problems were probably due to him having been sexually abused. At the referral in May 1993, and before having ever seen Samuel, she had contacted the Children and Young Person’s Service about him having an evidential interview for sexual abuse. She was informed that such an interview was not indicated until the child was ready to talk about how he had been sexually abused and by whom.
Her first session, in June 1993, was with the family – Samuel, Matthew and Heather – to talk about the rude games, which Ms Stanley described as Samuel’s sexual abuse of other children. At the end of this session Ms Stanley told Heather that Samuel may well have been sexually abused and that it was possible the offender was his father, Roger.
From then on she mostly saw Samuel alone, and was to have about 60 sessions with him over the next two years (which is more than one a fortnight). From the onset, she saw the focus of her therapy was to deal with his sexually abusive and other "acting out" behaviour, and to investigate the possibility that he had himself been sexually abused.
His behaviour did not improve over the next few months and Heather made contact with Roger, expressing her concerns and saying that Samuel was acting out of control. Roger decided to come back to New Zealand to help with his sons’ upbringing and within two weeks he was home, arriving in August 1993. He found himself accommodation and had the boys to stay every second weekend. He would also go and baby-sit them at their home when Heather wanted to go out for the evening. The arrangement was largely amicable and Heather did not believe that he had ever sexually abused their sons.
Samuel’s counselling with Ms Stanley continued and even though he persistently denied that he had been sexually abused, she kept up her inquiries with him about possible molestation. In November 1993 she claimed Samuel had complained about pain in his bottom and said that this indicated that perhaps someone had sexually abused him. On the strength of this she referred him to the children’s hospital for physical assessment. In February 1994 Samuel underwent a full physical and genital examination. The findings were normal, and according to the doctor’s report, Samuel had never complained of a sore bottom.
Counselling continued. This included Ms Stanley frequently asking Samuel to tell her any secrets he might be keeping, emphasising that it was bad for him to carry secrets. It would have been very clear to Samuel from the onset of her therapy that she believed that he had been sexually abused. In early 1994 Samuel said that he had been sexually abused by a man called Roger Smith when he was four years old (and still living in Australia). Ms Stanley suspected that this was really his father, but that Samuel was not ready to admit it. She carried on her counselling, seeking for further details of sexual abuse, and organised for both him and Matthew to undergo evidential interviews.
The interviews took place in June 1994. The week before Ms Stanley saw the two boys separately and then together to prepare them for the interviews. She accompanied them to the evidential video centre as their support person, and waited with their mother while they were being interviewed.
Samuel started his interview by saying he was there "because um Dad’s been sexually abusing us and stuff" but then admitted that he did not know what "abuse" really meant. On direct questioning, he said that his father has touched his penis in the shower, "pulling it back" with his hands, and that it felt "horrible". He says his father has done the same to his brother. The possibility that he might be describing hygiene care was not explored by the interviewer, who assumed that this is a sexual act. Samuel insisted that there had been no other types of rude touching, despite leading questions from the interviewer who clearly did not accept his denial and repeated her questions. She even asked him if his father has ever put his penis in Samuel’s bottom, although this had never been suggested before.
In Matthew’s interview he said he was there "cause [Dad] was playing with our rude bits", that "Mummy thinks um we’re not going to Dad’s any more" and that "the Police are contacting [Dad]". He claimed that this touching happened on five occasions "in the bushes" at his father’s house between the ages of 4 and 5 years. He also claimed that he had seen his father do this to Samuel five times; however Samuel said in his interview that his father had only ever touched him in the shower.
Soon after these interviews, Heather’s new boy friend, Graham Henry, moved in to live with her.
In July 1994 Roger was approached by the police and informed of these allegations. He underwent a video interview during which he adamantly denied the allegations. Several months later, in October, he was again contacted by the police, arrested and charged with indecent assault of both sons.
In the meantime Samuel continued to have regular counselling with Ms Stanley, and Matthew also started to have fortnightly sessions with her. She encouraged them to talk about the horrid feelings they had had and some of the horrid things that had happened to them when their father had been playing rude games with them, and how important it was for them to talk about some of the secrets they had not talked about yet so that they could start feeling better. For some months neither boy revealed any further details. In November 1994 Ms Stanley suggested that she make some guesses about what Dad might have done in the shower and they could tell her if she was right. She asked Samuel about a number of scenarios such as his dad making him touch his [dad’s] penis, but Samuel kept saying no, that had not happened. Finally when she "guessed" that his father had put his penis in Samuel’s bottom, the boy said "yes, that’s what Dad did".
Matthew underwent a similar session, with Ms Stanley trying to "guess" what Dad had done to him. Initially when she asked if Dad had put his penis in Matthew’s bottom the boy said no, but he later changed this to "sometimes he did". She then referred both boys back to the police, and had a joint session with them in December to prepare them for their second evidential interviews, which took place in mid December. Again, Ms Stanley accompanied them to the video interview centre and waited while they had their interviews.
During his second interview, Samuel claimed that his father has "put his willy into my bottom" on a number of occasions when he was in the shower. His father would stand outside the shower box, drop his trousers to his knees and do this while both he and the boy were standing up. When asked if Dad’s body was moving or still, he replied "almost still" and that after it had happened, he would go home and tell his mother.
In Matthew’s second interview, he used the same words as his brother, volunteering that "Dad put his willy in my bottom" before he was even asked why he was there and that it felt "horrible". When asked why he had not told about this during his first interview, he said "because I forgot" but that now "I remembered it".
Roger now faced further representative charges of anal intercourse with his sons. Before the trial, Samuel retracted his allegations to the police. They did not inform either the defence or the court about these retractions. Furthermore, Samuel also made allegations that his new step-father Graham had abused him, but subsequently admitted these allegations were false. This information was similarly withheld by the police.
Roger’s trial took place in August 1995. The day before the trial both boys attended Ms Stanley’s counselling centre to view the evidential interview they had made the previous year and refresh their minds about the allegations they had made. When asked about the incident with "Roger Smith" in Australia, Samuel admitted that he had just remembered that this man was someone he had only dreamed about and did not really exist. His evidence about when his father was supposed to have sodomised him, and how he had told his mother after each occasion, was confused and contradictory.
Matthew’s evidence was similarly inconsistent with what he had previously alleged, now saying that the episode in the bushes had happened only once and that he had told his mother about it straight away, and that the sodomy in the shower occurred at the same time, changing this to each incident having happened 5 times on the one day. A police officer who had visited Roger’s home during the investigations admitted that there were no bushes in the vicinity.
During the trial a court appointed psychologist gave evidence that the behaviour problems of both boys was consistent with a history of sexual abuse and that the diagnosis of hyperactivity (ADHD) causing Samuel’s behaviour problems could be excluded because these problems included sexualised behaviour which was consistent with sexual abuse having occurred. She claimed that children are no more open to suggestion than adults [apparently unaware of the large body of research demonstrating that children’s testimony can be easily influenced by the expectations of people in authority (including therapists, interviewers, police and parents) and that they are generally eager to please and will attempt to give a questioner the answer they believe expected of them].
Ms Stanley claimed that Samuel’s disruptive and sexualised behaviours had been caused by his father sexually abusing him. She said that since he had realised that he was sexually abused, he had become angry and resentful of his mother and others, developed low self-esteem, nightmares and fear of the dark. She felt that more counselling might help some of his problems but that he was emotionally scarred for life and deprived of a normal childhood by his father.
The physical unfeasibility of a big man being able to sodmise a small boy while he had his trousers down around his legs and with both of them standing up was never addressed during the trial. The height differential alone would make this an impossible act.
The jury acquitted Roger on charges relating to Matthew but found him guilty on one representative count of indecency with Samuel and one representative count of anal intercourse with him. In August 1995 Roger was sentenced to six years imprisonment, with permanent name suppression to protect the victim.
Roger’s family were shocked by the outcome. With the exception of his counsellor brother who had initially recommended Ms Stanley, his family had been very supportive, absolutely sure that there was no truth in the allegations. In early 1995 Roger had developed a relationship with a young woman, Rosemary Evans, who knew about the allegations and was very supportive of him. She remained a staunch ally. Roger’s parents took out a mortgage on their house, and an appeal was mounted.
In May 1996, nine months after his father had been sentenced, Samuel asked his mother if he could see his father in prison. He asked a lot of questions about his father and what prison is like. Then he asked "Does God know if you are telling lies?". When his mother said yes, he started crying and said that he had been telling lies about his father, that Roger had never played rude games with him. Matthew was present and he told his mother that he had told lies too. She waited a few days to see if they would change their story, then asked them about it again. The boys repeated that they had never played rude games with Roger and said that they would like to take a lie detector test to prove they were now telling the truth. Two days later Samuel went to see Ms Stanley. Despite her attempts to support him in the allegations, he insisted that none of it had ever happened.
Heather started to correspond with Roger in prison. She said she had never really believed the allegations, but had felt that the experts (the counsellor, social workers, psychologists and police) must know best, and it had been emphasised to her that if she did not believe her sons, it would be damaging to them and an indication that she was not able to protect them. Heather made an affidavit in which she outlined in great detail how both her sons had retracted their allegations. She was adamant that Samuel’s retraction was spontaneous and that she had not tried to pressure the children in any way that their allegations might not be true.
In July 1996 she took Samuel to a paediatrician who diagnosed his behaviour problems as Attention Deficit Disorder. He was treated with Ritalin and his behaviour rapidly improved.
Both children were interviewed by a retired judge, who prepared a report for the appeal court in September 1996. The judge confirmed Samuel’s retraction against his father. He said that Samuel had explained that he initially lied because he didn’t like the way his father had been strict with him and because his counsellor, Ms Stanley, kept asking the same questions over and over again.
The appeal was heard in October 1996. Both Roger’s convictions were quashed on the basis that Samuel had retracted his allegations both before and since the trial, and was still standing by his retractions. It was also ordered that there should not be a re-trial.
The following day Roger was released from prison, after 14½ months’ wrongful imprisonment. Today he lives with his girl-friend Rosemary, and the two boys stay with them at weekends and holidays. Roger says that the three years he had apart from his sons are fading like a bad dream, and they are back to the happy relaxed relationship they used to share. It cost Roger’s parents $60,000 to win his freedom, and he is planning legal action to win back his costs and repay his family.
Arthur is now in his 40s. He married Alice in his early twenties and they had two daughters, Mary born in 1972 and Jane born 1974. The marriage did not last, and in 1983 Arthur and his wife separated. Alice became involved in counselling and astrology. For several years Arthur and Alice maintained a friendly relationship, and Mary and Jane regularly visited Arthur and stayed overnight.
Mary began to show signs of stress, and in 1988 and 1989, while still a school girl, she received counselling from three different counsellors, including specific therapy for substance abuse.
In 1990 Arthur became involved with a new woman, Helen, whom he later married. His relationship with Alice deteriorated from this time. During that year Mary was knocked off her bicycle. After the accident, she started to suffer from nightmares and depression, and her family doctor referred her for further counselling. In October that year she told her mother that she had been experiencing flashbacks of her father sexually abusing her.
In late 1991 her younger sister Jane heard these allegations for the first time. She became very frightened, also attended counselling and experienced a similar flashback. Both sisters went on to recover memories of their father having sexually abused them as children from 1981 until 1990. They claimed that they blocked it out from their memory each time it happened. They both described their first memory as being a penis coming towards them in the dark. They later made similar allegations of suffering acts of oral sex, intercourse and rape. Mary said that her memories first emerged as "feelings of anger and despair…I would thump things and cry" and only subsequently would detailed and visual memories develop. In 1992 Mary claimed that when she was having sex with her boyfriend, she had flashbacks to her father abusing her, and she said she could remember incidents from the age of seven until her 18th birthday. Jane said she could remember him inserting his finger in her vagina when she was a baby.
Both girls continued to recover more and more memories in the two years between 1991 and 1993. They both received $10,000 ACC lump sum compensation, and ACC also paid for several years’ counselling each. Both their counsellors clearly believed their clients and supported the women at an arranged meeting to confront their father. They gave him an option: either he was to confess to their allegations and attend the STOP treatment programme for sex offenders, or they would go to the police. Arthur told them that he could not "stop" something he had never started, and that they should go to the police.
In 1993 Arthur was arrested and charged with eight counts of sexually abusing his daughters. The case went to trial in the High Court in March 1994. The psychiatric expert witness for the prosecution told court that she believed the concept of recovered memory is valid, and said "the mind could block out traumatic events through defence mechanisms known as denial and dissociation". Alice said that she did not know about any of the abuse but had chosen to believe her daughters. A jury found Arthur not guilty on 3 charges, but could not decide on 5. The Crown decided against second trial. Arthur had gained his freedom, but has lost his daughters.
The case of David Dougherty
In October 1992 an 11 year old Auckland girl was abducted from her home and raped. On questioning, she claimed that her assailant was her new next-door neighbour, David Dougherty. Dougherty denied the accusation and gave a DNA sample to prove his innocence. However he was arrested and in June 1993 went to trial. The DNA test results were said to be inconclusive. Dougherty was convicted and sentenced to 7 years 9 months.
In November 1993 Dougherty’s defence sought more sophisticated DNA testing from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR). The ESR identified another man’s semen in the girl’s underpants, but still claimed that there were traces of DNA which might also match Dougherty. A year later, in Oct 1994, the Appeal Court rejected a request to have Dougherty’s conviction overturned.
Lawyer Murray Gibson and DNA expert Arie Geursen were alarmed by these decisions and began to investigate.
After another year, in September 1995, they arranged for 2 overseas experts to examine the ESR test strips. In Jan 1996 both scientists reported that the tests showed unequivocal evidence of another man’s semen and said that the partial "match" to Dougherty also reported by the ESR was likely to be accidental cross-reactions in the test kit.
In April 1996 Murray Gibson petitioned the Governor General to intervene. He agreed and referred the matter back to the courts. In August the Appeal Court quashed Dougherty’s convictions and ordered a new trial. Dougherty was released on bail having spent more than 3 years in prison.
A retrial was held this month (April 1997) and a jury found him not guilty on all charges.
ople wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a crime they did not commit are not automatically entitled to compensation, in fact they very seldom receive it. Their only chance of redress relies on application to the Minister of Justice who may or may not decide to award it. In essence, Dougherty’s situation is no different to that of many other people every year who are charged and found not guilty of a crime.
One of the most disturbing aspects of this case is the action of the police and the prosecution. The girl’s story was that only one man had abducted and raped her. There was scientific evidence that the semen on her underpants came from someone other than Dougherty. There was no sensible explanation as to how Dougherty’s semen could have got there too. However the prosecution continued to believe the testimony of the girl rather than the DNA evidence. This means that not only was the wrong man being punished, but the police were not out there searching for the true assailant.
A man who kidnaps and rapes an 11 year old girl is likely to re-offend, and it is in society’s best interest for this man to be apprehended.
The girl gave a story of being attacked in her sleep, dragged through neighbouring properties, raped, then given drugs and alcohol before being set free. The attack happened at night and most of the time she was blind-folded, and presumably terrified. She claimed to have recognised Dougherty’s voice and his face when the blindfold fell off on a couple of occasions. She scarcely knew Dougherty at the time, as he had not lived in the neighbourhood long and had only exchanged a few pleasantries with her. It could be argued that under these circumstances, she could easily be mistaken as to the identity of her attacker.
It is alarming that even when there is scientific evidence which can categorically exclude the accused as a suspect, this is ignored in favour of the testimony of a child.
David Dougherty case update
The other major NZ case in the news is that of David Dougherty. David’s case has been covered in previous COSA newsletters. In 1993 was convicted of abducting and raping his 11-year old neighbour. He has always claimed his innocence.
DNA evidence indicated that the verdict was wrong and Dougherty won an appeal. He was freed this year after a retrial was ordered in which evidence was established that the semen found on the girl’s underpants could not have come from Dougherty. The jury in the second trial found him not guilty of the charges. He had spent three years in prison prior to his release.
The complainant still maintains that her attacker was Dougherty, despite the scientific evidence clearing him. Dougherty’s girl-friend has always claimed that she knew he was innocent because he was in bed with her the night that the rape took place.
Dougherty has claimed for compensation for wrongful imprisonment. However Minister of Justice Doug Graham has turned down his bid for compensation following his rape acquittal on the grounds that Dougherty has not proven his innocence. He gave as reasons:
That the complainant has never retracted her allegation that Dougherty was the person who had abducted and sexually violated her.
That the jury acquittal was more because the charges had not been proven rather than Dougherty was "truly an innocent man."
"Some uncertainty" about the key piece of evidence which led to a retrial – a DNA sample on the victim’s underwear which did not match Mr Dougherty’s DNA profile. A Crown forensic scientist, Dr Peta Stringer said it was possible the sample might not be semen.
That even if Dougherty was not involved in the sexual violation, he might have been party to it or her abduction.
There are many flaws in this reasoning. Firstly the complaint might have either been lying or honestly mistaken. The jury heard her insist that her attacker was clean-shaven, whereas Dougherty has had a moustache all his adult life.
Secondly, all forensic scientists who gave evidence agreed that there was a seminal stain from someone else on her underclothing. Dougherty’s lawyer Murray Gibson said he found it incredible that the nature of the key DNA sample which excluded Mr Dougherty was now being questioned as something other than semen. That issue was not raised in the court cases and several scientists had conclusively tested it positive for semen. Dr Rebecca Reynolds, a forensic scientist from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research, has said publicly "there is no way he put that sperm on the 11 year old’s underwear and pyjamas. I think Dougherty is certainly innocent".
Thirdly, the girl has always maintained that there was only one attacker, and the prosecution never suggested otherwise. Mr Graham appears to be suggesting that even if Dougherty was not guilty of the abduction and rape, he was guilty of another offence – an outlandish claim for which there is no apparent evidence.
Primarily, though, it is alarming that Graham considers it necessary for Dougherty to prove his innocence. Detective Inspector Ron Cooper, head of the police inquiry team investigating the reopened case, has declared: "I now believe he is innocent." Graham dismisses this as "a view expressed by one police officer." He appears to assume Dougherty may well be guilty despite a not guilty verdict by the jury and police Inspector Cooper’s statement that he believes he is innocent. He says that if the Government paid Dougherty compensation, then it would have to compensate "all of those people who got off on a technicality". This is close to claiming that he believes Dougherty is a rapist.
A number of lawyers, academics, journalists and politicians have decried Graham’s stance, and are angry at the reversal of the concept of the presumption of innocence. Dougherty was convicted of a crime that the Crown cannot prove he committed. He should be compensated for the three years he spent in prison, for his loss of income, his legal expenses and for trauma.
Dougherty’s lawyer Murray Gibson is considering an expensive and lengthy civil suit, based on negligence grounds, but has not named parties which could be sued.
Private investigator Bryan Rowe, a former top policeman, has joined the defence team in a bid to find to find the real offender. Rowe said he wants to prove Dougherty’s innocence and to get the real rapist off the streets.
Michael was in his mid 40s, happily married and father of two young children.
In 1989 his nineteen year old niece Susan (his brother’s daughter) attended counselling after she had had a termination of an unwanted teenage pregnancy and had made a suicide attempt. She had regular counselling over the next few years, with several changes of counsellor, until 1993. In March 1993 Susan was involved in a motor vehicle
accident and had more extensive counselling. The next month, she first made an allegation to her father that she had "regained" memories that her uncle had sexually abused her as a child.
In September 1993 she wrote to her father accusing him and her mother of "abusing her by neglect", of not communicating adequately with her and not understanding her. She also claimed that she knew her parents must both have been abused themselves as children. Both parents are adamant that their parents never abused them. Susan said that she had changed her name by deed-poll and did not want any more contact with them.
A month later she wrote to her father again, saying in the previous six months she had recovered several memories of sexual abuse and "more are coming up all the time". Her allegations included her uncle Michael having "fingered her at 3 and raped her at 6". Two months later, in December, the police arrested Michael and charged him with rape of
his niece when she was a child. He adamantly denied the allegations and went public, speaking on national television and writing to politicians. He wanted to sue the counsellors and also went to the police himself to complain about Susan’s false allegation.
In the course of the investigations it was revealed that Susan had been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and had received $10,000 lump sum compensation from the Accident Compensation scheme.
In mid 1994, Susan dropped the charges on Michael. She told her family that it was her father not her uncle who had abused her. Susan has had no further contact with her family.
Ernest and Betty
Ernest and Betty were born in the 1930s and married in 1957. They had three daughters in quick succession: Pamela born in 1958; Cathy in 1959 and Rosemary in 1962. Ernest worked for the military and describes himself as a fair but rather strict father.
In 1973, at the age of 15, Pamela left home to live in a "trial marriage" with her boy friend, totally against her parents’ wishes. It was a troubled year for her – the relationship was violent. She returned home in 1975.
Pamela married in 1978 and Laura was born. The marriage failed and in 1979 she returned home with her daughter Laura to live with her parents. Pamela re-married in 1986. That too, was violent and failed after 18 months. Again Pamela returned home. She was in and out of jobs, and on and off the DPB. At the family’s urging and hopefully to build her self-confidence, Pamela decided to get a flat, and moved into it in November 1991. Laura continued to live with Ernest and Betty until 1992 when she was 15.
In April 1992, Pamela went to see a counsellor because she was depressed, lonely, and without a job or outside contacts. She was aged 33 at this point. Just two months later Pamela told her family that during her therapy she has recovered memories of Ernest and other men sexually abusing from the age of 2 until about 12 or 13. These included incest, rape and indecent assaults. She claimed to have been raped by a close family friend in 1972 or 1973, and that Betty knew about this and condoned it.
Her sister Cathy had attended some of the counselling sessions to lend support to her elder sister. She came to believe that Pamela’s stories were true. Her youngest sister, Rosemary, said she knew these things never happened, and supported her parents. Cathy could not actually recall any of the incidents, but vehemently supported Pamela. The counsellor would not respond to Ernest and Betty’s repeated attempts to communicate.
Pamela laid a complaint with the police in June 1992. The police investigated and interviewed Ernest in September 1992. They decided that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
Betty went to a psychologist for help to deal with the situation. Her therapist told her that Ernest must be guilty, and that Betty’s only course of action was to leave her husband and support her accusing daughter. Betty had no desire or intention to leave her spouse to whom she had been happily married for nearly four decades, and found this response both bizarre and totally unhelpful.
To date, Ernest and Betty have had no further contact with two of their three daughters, and the two grand-daughters, they helped raise, nor with the two other young grand-children from Cathy’s second marriage. Rosemary has no contact with her sisters or their children, and her young son has lost access to his aunts and cousins. For a while, Rosemary said she became afraid to touch him, in case he accused her of sexually abusing him when he goes up.
With the help of her counsellor, Pamela made a claim for and obtained lump-sum ACC compensation. Despite numerous requests over the past 2 years, ACC has declined to give any information regarding the accusations on which the claim was based. They denied that Ernest was identified in Pamela’s claim as the abuser and quoted the Privacy Act. If that is so, who does Pamela now claim sexually abused her, and why have Ernest and Betty’s family been devastated by the memories their daughter claims to have recovered?
Letter to COSA
"I see that the name of this organisation means it is for casualties of sexual allegations, and while no-one has alleged that I sexually abused them I feel I am a casualty of such allegations.
My older sister alleges that Dad sexually abused her when she was quite young. Nothing about this is known in the rest of the family – my mother or by my two brothers – and my father died about 5 – 10 years before the allegations were made. She implicates Mum in the abuse. Mum was elderly when she came to know of the allegations a year or two after my sister made them and was very distressed by them. Mum died in 1995 with hardly any further contact from my sister, except abusive letters.
I was under pressure from my sister to agree that I had been sexually abused by Dad. She said she had been "and I had better get into therapy and I would probably discover that I had been too". From what I know she had "discovered" she had been sexually abused by Dad while she was attending a therapy group who met regularly over a period of time. The realisation came when she was in her late 40s.
At first I did not disbelieve her allegation, though I knew nothing about any sexual abuse in our family. She said that Dad put his penis in her mouth when she was quite young (as a baby or quite a young child). I was shocked and worried – in fact I felt a confusion of feelings, then and after, which I still haven’t sorted out.
There was a background of my sister alleging various disturbing things. At one time this included distress about her being responsible for the death of her twin, who died a few days after his birth.
When she alleged sexual abuse I found it hard to say or think clearly that possibly this didn’t happen. This was because I trusted her to tell the truth. Also, she was my older sister; she could be quite belligerent; she had considerable experience in therapy and knew better; she could be very disparaging towards me. As to her imprecations about me, I was hostile. Part of it was I hated the idea that she could know – when I didn’t – that I had been sexually abused, and by Dad. I was very reluctant to agree with the idea that my problems would probably be found to be because I had been sexually abused – but I was very upset.
In 1990, in this context, I entered counselling again and waited to see if anything would come out about me being sexually abused by Dad. Eventually I did one session supposing that someone had sexually abused me when I was quite young; I did not have any content. I had the attitude that "if this is what it take to feel better I’ll say yes I was sexually abused" and I thought "it could be true" and "some memories or content might come out over time" but this did not happen. I looked at the Courage to Heal and I thought that some of the memories were disturbingly vague to be recounted as evidence of sexual abuse. I think I started to draw the line at this point, but I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t contradict my sister’s talk, which now includes that she has multiple personality disorder. At the end of counselling I had no increasing belief that I had been sexually abused when young and told my therapist I did not think it had happened. One memory regarding Dad I could not explain definitely but I suppose it was a dream or reverie.
I recently decided to present myself to a group such as COSA, because although I don’t know if my sister has been sexually abused by my father, I feel I haven’t been, and I think that the signs are this is a fabrication, although one truly believed in by my unhappy sister. She has recently written to say she doesn’t belong in what remains of the family as "we either did it, or support it (the incest). I do not have a family any more".
I am having some difficulty sleeping and I think part of the reason for this is a lot of loose ends regarding these matters and in particular how I can express doubt about her allegations, and not being able to openly discuss issues surrounding it all. I want to come out with those who say something has gone wrong. Some people who allege sexual abuse are mistaken. People who say "it didn’t happen" are not necessarily in denial or supporting abusers.
At present I feel I could be hated and would have no protection if I stated my belief in the wider world."
Peter Ellis and the Christchurch CrÃƒÂ¨che Case
This is certainly the hot story for this month. Last year North & South magazine journalist David McLoughlin published an excellent exposÃ© about the inadequacies and injustices of the Christchurch Civic CrÃƒÂ¨che case. Details of this case have also been outlined regularly in COSA newsletters. On 16 November, TV3’s 20/20, screened Melanie Reid’s Special Report on the Christchurch Civic CrÃƒÂ¨che fiasco. This two great pieces of journalism have brought this case again to the public attention. There has always been a general unease about Ellis’ guilt by the public at large.
A worker in the crÃƒÂ¨che, Ellis, was found guilty in 1993 of 16 out of 25 charges of abusing children in his care. This was a sensational case, involving satanic ritual abuse allegations by a number of children, and accusations made also made against many of the women workers (four were also arrested but later discharged). Ellis has always maintained his innocence. He has nearly 4 years out of a 10 year sentence. In 1994 an appeal was rejected by the Court of Appeal, even though 3 charges were dismissed because one of the key witnesses had recanted.
New details were revealed in the 20/20 documentary. Firstly two jurors in the case had relationships with people involved in the case which had not been disclosed to the court. The jury foreman, a Christchurch clergyman, had been the marriage celebrant for the Crown prosecutor, Brent Stanaway, and another juror was the lesbian partner of a woman who shared a small office (at an adjoining desk) with the mother of one of the key complainants. Secondly the detective on the case, Colin Eade, admitted that he was mentally unwell during the investigation and that he later required treatment for depression. During the case he had made a sexual proposition to one of the mothers, who had objected and withdrawn her child from the case. He subsequently formed sexual relationships with the mothers of two of the child complainants. It was later also revealed that he also had a sexual relationship with one of the chief child investigators of the case.
It was also admitted that most or all of the children who made allegations against Ellis had withdrawn their accusations at various times in the past but that this was treated as a symptom of ‘denial’.
In the past fortnight since the documentary screening, there has been a flurry of media activity about this case. The public appears to be strongly on the side of Ellis’s probable innocence. Every day a new story appears about the case in the newspapers, on radio or television. Very few commentators suggest that he really is guilty.
A rare exception is that of Robyn Fancourt, previous DSAC President and now in charge of an advocacy organisation called ‘Children’s Agenda’. Fancourt is complaining to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about the airing of the 20/20 programme because of ‘the hysteria’ that has resulted. In the past, Fancourt has been quoted as saying that she has ‘never known a false allegation get through’. Police Association president Greg O’Connor also is convinced of Ellis’ guilt, because ‘the conviction of Ellis as a paedophile was upheld on appeal’, and senior lecturer in clinical psychology at Auckland University, John Read, berated the TV programme as one-sided and an example of how people ‘ignore our children when they are brave enough to tell of their abuse’.
A number of politicians are speaking on Ellis’ behalf. These include Labour MP and Opposition Justice Spokesperson Phil Goff; NZ First chief whip Ron Mark, (a list MP from Christchurch); and Alliance list MP Rod Donald. Even John Banks, who has decried Ellis as a horrendous child abuser in the past, is now saying that he believes he is innocent.
The solicitor-general is reported to have ordered an investigation into the jury. Ellis’s counsel, Judith Ablett-Kerr, is to petition Governor-General Sir Michael Hardie Boys for a pardon. Police Commissioner Peter Doone has agreed to hold an inquiry into investigations that led to the conviction.
New Zealand First MP Rana Waitai, a former police commander of 31 years’ experience, and chairman of Parliament’s justice and law reform committee, backs the inquiry. Mr Waitai said that Ellis could be the victim of "an almost unbelievably bizarre abortion of justice"… If half of what was on the (20/20) programme is true, Peter Ellis must immediately be released and hugely compensated for the devastation that has been done to his life. The normal rules of evidence appear to have been suspended. The normal rules of investigation appear to have been suspended.
Had the full claims (regarding ritual abuse), by the children been put to the jury, they may have had a better insight into the claims. That the jury was denied this is an outrage to justice. And most damning of all we learned from the detective-in-charge (that) not only had a witness recanted their claim, but probably all seven of the final witnesses had also by now recanted their claim."
Another aspect of the trial that disturbed him was that medical evidence or corroboration was not sought by the police nor prosecution. At the time of the Ellis trial, a new "politically correct" attitude had arisen toward sexual abuse, he said. "This spawned what one could describe as a sexual abuse industry and that industry had certain tenets that were beyond examination.
The first was: a child who complains of sexual molestation never lies, never mistakes the nature of what they’re talking about and must be believed totally.
The second tenet was that all men are rapists and if they had not yet been caught it was just that they hadn’t.
At the same time, ritual abuse claims were made about several harmless organisations merely because they had elements of rituals in the way they operated. And the same people who made sexual abuse claims with such ferocity were also connected with ritual abuse claims. The children who claimed sexual molestation also claimed Peter Ellis had cooked kittens and a whole series of other bizarre ritual abuse. What was put forward was a sanitised version. Anyone with a passing familiarity with the law will know that is not good justice."
It is promising to hear a senior politician making these statements. While COSA is heartened that the TV3 documentary has roused a public response, it is important to recognise that the injustice in this case relates to a lot more important issues that whether the makeup of the jury was less than objective and that the investigating police offer had intimate relationships with a number of the key players.
Each of the concerning aspects of the Ellis case should not be evaluated in isolation. It is the sequence of events, the overall picture that is the key to understanding what has happened here. There is over-whelming evidence that justice was not served in this case, and that the investigative and judicial processes were neither objective nor competently performed.
Of particular concern is that children who did not initially disclose abuse began to do so in subsequent interviews by investigators who were committed to the belief that these children had been victims. Considerable contamination of testimony was likely, given the parents’ active support group and the questioning of their children over a long period of time, let alone the ongoing contact between the children excited by all the drama around them. Much of the interrogation of the children involved suggestive and leading questioning, and the highly suggestive ‘anatomical dolls’ were used. The allegations got progressively more bizarre and unlikely and some were clearly fantasy. This is an expected consequence of non-abused children undergoing repeated interviews by people in authority who believe the children have undergone sexual trauma that they are too scared to reveal.
Although some of the investigators seem to have believed everything the children said, even the most bizarre claims including those involving satanic ritual abuse and multiple perpetrators, the Crown prosecutor, Brent Stanaway, must had had some doubts, because he narrowed down the charges and the complainants to those appearing to be the most credible. The more incredible and bizarre stories were excluded as evidence, as these would have discredited the child witnesses immediately. However the bizarre claims came from the same interviews as the ‘more credible’ ones, a fact that must throw considerable doubt on the reliability of the latter.
The primary source of the error is the prevailing belief by those working in the sexual abuse field that first, sexual abuse is the most likely cause of an child or adult psychological problem; and second, that while women and children might be reluctant to ‘disclose’, they must always be believed when they make a sexual allegation. Over the past 13 years I have accumulated evidence which demonstrates how these beliefs have influenced practices, policies and legislation to operate on a presumption of guilt (every complainant is presumed to be genuine) leading to the generation of many false complaints. COSA now has on record dozens of cases where like Peter Ellis, men have been convicted on the basis of similar although less-sensational testimony, often obtained through coercive or suggestive interviewing and counselling practices. Many languish in prison with no means to obtain justice.
Evidence is over-whelming that Peter Ellis was not proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. He was convicted on the basis of uncorroborated testimony with the complicity of professionals who believe that women and children always tell the truth when they say they have been sexually abused. These professionals do not believe women and children if they say they have not been abused. To them, anyone who retracts an allegation must be "in denial".
In their defence, CYPS and the Police have recently said that in the past few years, they have considerably improved their interviewing practices; that anatomically correct dolls are no longer used; that care is taken to avoid leading questions; and that guidelines recommend only one evidential interview. While I agree that from the cases I have seen, there does appear to be improvement, I still see many cases where there is clear evidence of damage caused by the uncritical acceptance of allegations produced in the course of suggestive interviews or therapy. However the admission by the police and others that that the interviewing practices used in the CrÃƒÂ¨che case were seriously defective is a further indication that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.
The affair is not a case in isolation. Behind Peter Ellis stand many other innocent men and women, falsely accused under the same misguided policies and practices which fuelled the Christchurch CrÃƒÂ¨che case. If the authorities are admitting that those earlier practices were flawed, then all who have been charged and convicted on this basis should also have their cases re-examined. The rise in false sexual allegations that has occurred over the past one to two decades is the result of ideological-driven practices which believe that false allegations rarely if ever happen (all alleged victims should be uncritically believed) and that all men are potentially rapists.
There is widespread public unease regarding the CrÃƒÂ¨che case. Justice has not been seen to be done. Given this plus the facts of the case, a full Commission of Inquiry is required. Since this would involve assessment of the part the courts played in this case, such an Inquiry should be presided over by senior judge from overseas. This Inquiry should not focus solely on the Peter Ellis case but should examine the underlying processes and polices which have resulted in this case. COSA submits that this Inquiry should be conducted for all those convicted of sexual offences on the basis of uncorroborated testimony. The Inquiry should look into the role of police, CYPS social workers, ACC-accredited therapists and DSAC (Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care) doctors who operate from the assumption that false allegations rarely if ever happen, and hence do not approach cases from a place of neutrality. It also should examine the distorting effect of ACC providing large cash pay-outs (now discontinued) and state-funded counselling for anyone alleging past sexual abuse, with no corroboration required.
All this page written by F.Goodyear-Smith, unless otherwise noted.