Peter Ellis & the Christchurch Civic Creche Case
Contents of this page:
December 2007 – Val Sim: gatekeeper in Ellis whitewash exposed
Poneke’s Blog has a must-read article: New evidence reveals how Goff inquiry into Peter Ellis case was nobbled
I have long wondered how Goff was nobbled in his desire to see justice prevail in this case, and how Eichelbaum could have conducted such a pathetic inquiry. After all, another eminent jurist, Justice Sir Thomas Thorp, had earlier found, in a report leaked the week after Eichelbaum’s travesty was published, that the evidence in the Civic case was so suspect there was a serious risk of a miscarriage of justice.
Now I have found the answer, or at least a good part of it. In two fascinating articles in the New Zealand Law Journal, independent Wellington researcher Ross Francis has obtained and analysed the paper trail of the behind-the-scenes activities of the Justice Ministry officials who advised not only Goff but also Eichelbaum.
Sim is revealed by Francis as working quietly within the ministry over a number of years, advising other officials, judges and politicians not to grant Ellis a pardon and not to allow a full commission of inquiry into the case. She is now a law commissioner.
August 2003 – Interview Transcripts Published
CYF fails to stop Ellis testimony (Dominion Post). Child, Youth and Family has failed to stop a businessman from publishing never-before-exposed children’s testimonies he says will exonerate Peter Ellis. Children’s Commissioner Roger McClay confirmed he also wanted the transcripts, due to fill a double-page advertisement in Sunday papers (Sunday Star-Times), stopped. National Business Review publisher Barry Colman, who has never met Ellis or any of the children, says the interviews will show Ellis was an innocent victim of a hysterical witch hunt and he wants a commission of inquiry to prove it. The transcripts showed some children had been interviewed up to six times. Mr Colman believes the jury only heard interviews that suited the prosecution. “As a former journalist I think what I have shown is a pretty good representative case but there is still some suspicion among some critics that . . . we are providing selective evidence, so to make the whole thing transparent. I am going to have a website built that will have 100 per cent of the transcripts on it.”
2003 Petition for Royal Commission of Inquiry
Minister must act now on Ellis case – Frank Haden (Sunday Star-Times). The nationwide demand for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the shonky conviction of Peter Ellis now looks as if it will be satisfied by pressure from within the government caucus. Many government MPs, restrained only by the party whip from signing the petition of prominent New Zealanders seeking a Royal Commission presented to parliament on Tuesday, are increasingly restive. Prime Minister Helen Clark is understood to be uneasy about the continued refusal of Justice Minister Phil Goff to ignore the bad advice he is getting from the top levels of his ministry.
As pressure builds around the Christchurch Civic Creche case, Peter Ellis refuses to be cowed by his child-abuse convictions, or life generally. In his most candid interview since leaving prison, Peter Ellis talks to Matt Conway (The Press).
The fate of the petition calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Peter Ellis case rests with Parliament’s justice and electoral select committee (The Press). Committee chairman Christchurch Central MP Tim Barnett said the petition had been received by the committee and the Ministry of Justice and petitioners had been asked to provide a briefing.
One of the original complainants in the Christchurch Civic Child Care Centre case (The Press) is among those to sign a petition calling for a Commission of Inquiry into Peter Ellis’ convictions. The complainant, who testified at depositions but not at Ellis’ trial, says she first began to doubt Ellis’ guilt when she was 13 years old. Now aged 18, she wants answers as to what actually happened at the creche during her pre-school years.
Law journal attacks Ellis process
The legal system’s handling of the Peter Ellis case was flawed, says the New Zealand Law Journal February 2002 editorial (95KB PDF). The independent publication says former Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum’s judgment, when leading a ministerial inquiry into the Christchurch Civic Creche child-abuse case, was either wrongly directed or at fault. The article’s author, journal editor Bernard Robertson, calls for the repeal of part of the Evidence Act and questions whether the appeals process can deliver justice. He alleges courts have been “conned” by psychologists. (NZ Herald).
A City Possessed
Lynley Hood’s book: ‘A City Possessed – The Christchurch Civic Creche case’ is #1 on the Booksellers NZ bestsellers list for the two weeks up to 11 October 2001. Download flyer (61 KB PDF). I’ve posted a few excerpts from A City Possessed on this website for those wondering if it is worth reading. It is highly recommended.
With her book, A City Possessed, Lynley Hood has reflected a widespread view that Ellis may have been the victim of a cause (NZ Herald). Nobody needs to have read the book to share an impression that social workers and police, in their determination to prosecute child abuse, sometimes seem too credulous where the claims of children are concerned.
Articles from MENZ Issues:
Disappointment with Limited Ministerial Enquiry into Peter Ellis Case Mr Ellis’ lawyer, Judith Ablett-Kerr, said she was unhappy the inquiry would be narrower than the royal commission she asked for. Important evidence would be excluded, such as police reports, original reports relating to police, and later information concerning a detective.
What Price Justice? This inquiry should be condemned loudly and clearly for being totally inadequate, prior to it proceeding. The results are almost predictable, and will leave justice delayed, and the culprits exonerated.
Sandra Coney Contradicted On 12th March, the topic of feminist Sandra Coney’s column was her reasons why there should not be any form of inquiry in the Peter Ellis conviction. There were two responses the next week:
Ellis arguments Our judicial process is the heart of our community and we have an inherent right to examine it when it goes badly awry. Peter Ellis was convicted on the incomplete, imaginative and uncorroborated testimony of small children, and the opinions of so-called "experts".
Unease over Ellis Ms Coney is misleading when she asserts that no defence request was denied by the trial judge. Several important defence requests were declined. For example, the judge stopped defence lawyers introducing evidence which contradicted one child’s testimony that Ellis had taken him away from the creche and done "bad things" to him.
Ellis Released – Calls for Enquiry ‘Tracing The Evolution Of A Satanic Scare’, Ellis: "I am not a guilty man", Memory Researcher calls for new trial based on science, Frank Haden calls for enquiry, Sandra Coney disagrees, Justice Minister concerned about Ellis case, Dr John Read advocates limits to enquiry, "Remember child victims" says Roger McClay, Darryl Ward wrote to The Dominion, Illinois Governor bans executions after justice system fails, Feminism built on believing women’s allegations of sexual abuse, Opposition to enquiry, When juries have got it wrong, John Read "Predictable", Terms of Reference.
Articles from COSA Newsletters:
Blending Science and Law When the Evidence Act was amended about 1985 to remove the need for corroboration in sexual cases, the mandatory judge’s warning on the dangers of convicting on the basis of uncorroborated evidence was also removed. Later Amendments allowed expert witnesses to give their opinions, but failed to introduce a counter-balancing test to ensure that those opinions had scientific support. The changes may have been well-intentioned, but recent history has shown them to be badly flawed. The consequences have reverberated throughout society. Those Amendments removed a vital protection and put defendants in greater jeopardy. They ignored a fundamental principle: If one is willing to make allegations, one must also provide credible evidence to support them. That the law allows conviction in sexual cases without credible corroborative evidence is a serious error in critical thinking. It invites dishonesty and mistakes.
External corroboration was missing in the Peter Ellis case. The misunderstandings in this case were that the children’s testimony was historically correct, and opinions of the so-called "experts" were valid and taken as a form of corroboration.
Dr John Read’s Letter to NZ Herald: "We can expect continued attacks from Ellis supporters on any professionals involved in child protection work and on those, like myself and the Commissioner for Children, Roger McClay, who seek a balanced approach to any inquiry, placing as much emphasis on the needs of New Zealand’s children as it does on the rights of convicted sex offenders."
Mr Goff’s support for an Inquiry into Peter Ellis. We urge him to make it a Royal Commission of Inquiry with wide Terms of Reference.
Peter Ellis has endured much unnecessary hardship as a result of junk-science, witch-hunting and a justice system gone awry.
Moral Panics, Witch Hunts and the Satanic Abuse Scare. Dr Greg Newbold. "As the pitch of the satanic panic rose, it was almost inevitable that somebody, somewhere, was going to get accused. That unfortunate ‘somebody’ was Peter Ellis."
Editorial: Peter Ellis and the Christchurch CrÃƒÂ¨che Case New details were revealed in a TV 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.
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".
Editorial:Skeptics and NZQA We have just returned from the annual Skeptics conference. The AGM unanimously voted to donate $2500.00 to the Peter Ellis Trust, in acknowledgement that the injustice to Ellis is due to beliefs in events with no scientific evidence to support them.
Newsletters received by COSA includes End Ritual Abuse "dedicated to keeping the subject of satanic ritual abuse (which involves painful, sadistic sexual abuse, torture, killing, and the use of ritual indoctrination such as mind-control) on the public agenda."
End Ritual Abuse Newsletter ERA runs a weekly support group for "Satanic ritual abuse survivors. One of these women describes the process of how she recovered memories of being satanically abused through her therapy and came to discover she had multiple personalities inside her. One of them has disclosed scenes of ritual abuse involving "chanting, robes, darkness, candles, evil people looking at her, alters and being sexually abused."
Editorial: Indoctrination of sexual abuse workers. In the past ten years, a quiet stream of "experts" have flowed into New Zealand from the United States, teaching and enforcing some misguided principles and practices. Workers who attend workshops on topics such as recovered memories and satanic abuse are unlikely to challenge the material presented when these speakers are presented as reputable specialists holding mainstream scientifically-validated views, especially when the organisers of these seminars are groups or institutions with some authority in NZ.
End Ritual Action group seeks funds – set up to "fight satanic abuse", ERA has applied for almost $40,000 from the Government and Lottery Board.
End Ritual Action Newsletter includes Heather McDowell’s claim that those who use the term "false memory syndrome" want to deny the occurrence of sexual abuse. Also; supporters of Peter Ellis are "part of a cynical organised strategy to discredit children’s evidence in order to keep the world safe for other child abusers".
Editorial: When Education becomes Indoctrination. My Masters degree paper on Teaching and Learning. Entitled When Education becomes Indoctrination: dissemination of misinformation in the field of sexual abuse, it illustrates the processes whereby education within a particular field can be subverted for political or other agendas, and become the vehicle for indoctrination. I discuss how the use of selected or erroneous information, intolerance of critical appraisal, and lack of evaluation and accountability contribute to this process. I use the current proliferation of misinformation in the sexual abuse field as an example of this phenomenon, but also address more general implications.
Editorial: Peter Ellis Appeal The research evidence regarding memory and suggestibility clearly demonstrates how easy it is for children’s testimony to be distorted or fabricated by interview processes. It is time for the courts to recognise that uncorroborated "disclosures" obtained this way are not credible evidence.
End Ritual Abuse Newsletter ERA is put out by some of the parents of the Christchurch Civic Creche, who believe that their children were ritually abused by Ellis and women daycare workers over 2 to 3 years. Michael Owen, a senior clinical psychologist at the Greenhill Child and Family Centre, Tauranga, writes in the June newsletter in eloquent support of the existence of satanic abuse, that the "dark son will manifest itself in destructive ways particularly in the lives of women and children".
End Ritual Abuse – parents of children who had attended the Christchurch Civic Daycare centre have launched a newsletter.
1999 Call for Royal Commission of Inquiry:
- Letter from Peter Ellis’ Mum
- Support from Rana Waitai MP
- Letter from Minister of Justice about enquiry.
- Terms of Reference
Letter from Peter Ellis’ Mum
23 September 1999
The Honourable Tony Ryall
The Minister of Justice
c/- Parliament Buildings, WELLINGTON
Re: PETER HUGH McGREGOR ELLIS
On behalf of my son Peter, myself and the numerous people of New Zealand who have experienced concerns about the Civic CrÃƒÂ¨che Inquiry and given their personal support of Peter, I urge you to call for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch Civic CrÃƒÂ¨che Investigation.
I make this plea knowing that we still await the outcome of Peter’s Appeal but a Royal Commission is a separate issue and a course that should be followed regardless of the outcome of the Appeal. I say this because I have sat through two Appeals and have been quite distressed by the limitations of the appeal process. The Courts seem so hung up on procedure and technicalities whereas Peter and I have only ever been interested in the truth. We want the whole picture to be seen and think that most New Zealand people would agree that that’s what Justice is all about.
The government is concerned at why young men do not go into teaching very young children. I would have thought Peter’s case provides a very strong reason why they do not.
You have to ask yourself how an Education Review Office Report that was conducted at exactly the same time as the supposed offending could find that the CrÃƒÂ¨che was such a positive and happy environment for the children.
A Royal Commission could carry out an inquiry whereas the Court of Appeal allegations of sexual abuse against children is an important matter for the whole of society. We need to ensure that whilst the guilty are convicted the innocent are acquitted. It is vital for everyone that the investigation be done properly and that Courts can rely on getting the whole picture not just selected bits.
I have learned from the appeal that other countries have recognised the need for special care in crÃƒÂ¨che type cases and Australia has held a Royal Commission of Inquiry that included identifying the dangers associated with the prosecution of mass hysteria crÃƒÂ¨che type cases. Why as a country do we in New Zealand lag behind?
It is time to stop hiding behind technicalities and carry out a full inquiry for the good of all of Society.
On behalf of myself and my son Peter.
Support from Rana Waitai MP.
To the editor, Dominion newspaper
Re Peter Ellis
With the imminent release of the court of appeal findings In the Peter Ellis appeal, his mother Lesley Ellis is sending a letter to the Minister of Justice, Tony Ryall and a copy to all other members seeking a Royal Commission of Enquiry.
She is absolutely right, a royal commission of enquiry is able to open up avenues of enquiry much wider than the matters that are the subject of appeal.
As a great number of right thinking New Zealanders now realise there was a low spot in the enforcement of law and the administration of justice in this country during the early nineties. At that time an hysteria based on sexual abuse of children coinciding with an hysteria of ritual abuse passed through New Zealand. The ritual abuse hysteria was of very short duration And its promoters were from the idiot fringe of new age psycho-babble. Rapidly as it passed, it stayed long enough to snare one single prominent victim Peter Ellis.
As people look back on our history they will marvel at how normally sane organisations such as the police and the courts could have been caught up in what will be seen plainly as a tragic aberration. Social welfare and more particularly its sexual abuse units, at the time had been captured for some while by sexual abuse zealots and so there will be no real sense of surprise there. Likewise with ACC. There was that period when they handed out lump sum payment to alleged sexual abuse victims on the flimsiest of evidence. I understand that some 60 payments of $10,000 were made to the Ellis victims, many of whom have since recanted. It will be interesting to see how many refunds of tax payers money there were from recanters.
Crack-pot psychologists and counsellors peddling the since debunked idea of regressive memory recollection of sexual abuse in childhood, while babies, and for all we know in past lives, had a brief reign at that time, before New Zealand came to its senses. The shame of it is that it had all happened before, with identical scenarios, in England, America and Australia.
There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered in this whole sorry saga and a Royal Commission of Enquiry is the correct vehicle to reveal the truth.
Mrs Lesley Ellis herself, was the subject of incredible allegations, all from the realm of high fiction. As Peter Ellis’s mother she had to put up with that nonsense as well the torment of having an innocent son imprisoned.
When I first became involved in this matter some 2 years ago and started visiting Peter Ellis to hear his version first hand, a stated publicly that I hope that Peter Ellis is richly compensated for his seven years in Prison. There is a theory that the going rate for false imprisonment should be $1000.00 a day. That would be a good starting point for this abomination in our legal history.
I am certain that all MPs will receive Mrs Ellis and her letter well. This is not a matter that one should make political capital out of and it would be disappointing if any politicians should use it for that purpose.
Letter from Minister of Justice about enquiry
1 June 2000
Dear Mr Waugh
Thank you for your letter, plus enclosed literature, regarding the Ministerial inquiry into the Ellis case.
I have considered your request to refer the literature you have enclosed to Sir Thomas Eichelbaum, for him to consider as part of the inquiry into the Ellis case. However, I do not think it is necessary to refer this material to Sir Thomas, having regard to the purpose of the inquiry and the nature of the issues it has been set up to consider.
It may be useful if I outline the nature and purpose of the inquiry into Mr Ellis’s case. You may be aware that, prior to the announcement of the inquiry, Mr Ellis’s convictions had been referred to the Court of Appeal pursuant to section 406(a) of the Crimes Act 1961. In its judgement on that referral, the Court determined that, in its opinion, no miscarriage of justice had occurred in Mr Ellis’s case. Simultaneously, however, the
Court also indicated that there were a number of matters, including a large body of literature which had been adduced before it by counsel for Mr Ellis and the Crown, which it was unable to look into but which might be better addressed by an inquiry. Subsequently, the Governor-General received a further application from Mr Ellis for a pardon and a Royal Commission of Inquiry into his case.
I have enclosed a copy of the terms of reference for the inquiry for your information. As you will see from these terms of reference, Sir Thomas has been specifically asked to provide advice on matters that will enable resolution of Mr Ellis’s application for a pardon, by examining the limited set of issues that were left open by the Court of Appeal. In particular, he has been asked to identify current best practice for investigating mass allegation sexual abuse cases, and to determine whether these practices were followed in Mr Ellis’s case. He has also been asked to seek the opinion of at least two internationally recognised experts in the area, and has been asked to receive submissions from certain parties on these matters. Finally, Sir Thomas has been asked to examine the literature which the Court indicated would be more appropriately reviewed by and inquiry. As you correctly note in your letter, however, Sir Thomas has not been asked to invite and consider general public submissions, either on the literature relating to mass allegation sexual abuse cases or on the circumstances surrounding Mr Ellis’s case.
(signed) Hon Phil Goff, Minister of Justice.
Terms Of Reference For Ministerial Inquiry Into Ellis Case
Friday, 10 March 2000
Press Release: New Zealand Government.
The Minister of Justice appoints you to inquire in the manner set out below into matters which may be relevant to the assessment of the reliability of evidence given by the children who attended the Christchurch civic crÃƒÂ¨che against Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis and to report on whether there are any such matters which give rise to doubts about the assessment of the children’s evidence to an extent which would render the convictions of Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis unsafe and warrant the grant of a pardon.
You are to:
1.(a) Review the reports and memoranda listed in the schedule and;
(i) identify the processes, practices and procedures currently accepted internationally as best practice for investigating mass allegation child sexual abuses and interviewing children in these cases; and
(ii) identify any risks associated with a failure to adhere to best practice.
(b) On the basis of the evidence given at both the depositions and the trial, assess whether the investigation into the events at the Christchurch civic crÃƒÂ¨che case and interviews of children were conducted in accordance with best practice as now understood.
(c) If you conclude that the interviews were not conducted in accordance with best practice, identify the nature and extent of any risks which arise, which might affect the assessment of the reliability of the children’s evidence. In conducting this task you are not required to attribute or apportion blame to particular individuals who undertook the interviews. The focus of the task is on the evaluation of systems and techniques and their impact on the children.
In undertaking the tasks referred in (1) above, you are to invite, and consider, written submissions from the Crown Law Office (on behalf of the Police, Department of Social Welfare and Specialist Interviewers), Peter Ellis, the families of children who gave evidence at the Ellis trial, and the Commissioner for Children.
2. For the purpose of the assessment and the conclusions under (1) above, you are to:
(a) Seek and evaluate opinions from at least two internationally recognised experts (if possible with experience in mass allegation child sexual abuse) on whether there are features of the investigation and/or interviews of the children (on the basis of the evidence at depositions and trial) which may have affected the reliability of the children’s evidence, and if so, their likely impact.
(b) In selecting the experts from whom opinions are to be sought you are to:
(i) invite and consider submissions from the Crown Law Office, Mr Peter Ellis, the families of children who gave evidence at Mr Ellis’s trial and the Commissioner for Children; and (ii) make such further inquiries as you consider necessary to ensure that the experts from whom opinions are sought reasonably reflect the range of professional views.
3. In light of your assessment and conclusions in (1) and (2) above, you are to report by 31 August 2000 on whether there are any matters which give rise to doubts about the assessment of the children’s evidence to an extent which would render the convictions of Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis unsafe and warrant the grant of a pardon.
- Report of the Inquiry into Child Abuse in Cleveland 1987;
- Report of the Inquiry into the Removal of Children from Orkney Isles in February 1991;
- The 1992 Memorandum of Good Practice (England);
- The Joint New Zealand Children and Young Persons Service and Police Operating Guidelines of March 1997;
- The Final Report of the Royal Commission into the New South Wales Police Service of May 1997;
- Law Commission. Total Recall? The Reliability of Witness Testimony. A Consultation Paper (July 1999); and
- Analysis of Child Molestation Issues Report No.7, A Report by the 1993/4 San Diego County Grand Jury, June 1, 1994.
Peter Ellis / City Possessesed News Archive – extensive archive of news items about the Christchurch Creche case, reviews of Lynley Hood’s book ‘A City Possessed’, and information about false sexual allegations.
Civic Creche Case, Christchurch Paper by Felicity Goodyear-Smith in the Journal Issues in Child Abuse Allegations
ABSTRACT: Allegations of children being sexually abused by workers in child care centers are now becoming common throughout the Western world Frequently these cases follow a similar pattern whereby a concerned parent interprets a symptom or behavior of her child as indicating sexual abuse and activates investigations by other parents and the authorities. Although they initially deny any molestation, repeated interrogations eventually lead to children claiming increasingly perverted and bizarre events, naming more and more child victims and adult perpetrators.
Allegations typically involve consuming urine and feces, penetrating body orifices with fingers, objects and penises, "sex rings," making child pornography, animal and human sacrifice, and even eating dead babies. No objective evidence is ever found to support these claims. Although the initial allegation may be unfounded the investigation will gather momentum and result in many people convinced in the truth of the children’s "disclosures," public outrage, and long, expensive trials which are traumatic to all concerned. Children who report such stories generally only start manifesting signs and symptoms of emotional distress after they have "told."
This account describes a case at the Civic Creche, Christchurch, New Zealand which demonstrates a clear parallel to similar cases in other parts of the world.
A critique of Judge Eichelbaum’s report on the Ellis case written and researched by Jonathon Harper M.A. (Psychology) B.A. (Philosophy and Psychology) Dip.Tchg.
The central issue in this case is not (as often claimed by Minister of Justice Phil Goff, in regard to any re-examination of the case) about looking for new evidence. Many commentators have noted that there appears to be little or no credible evidence that any crime was ever committed in the first place. Rather, the issue is that there exists much disquiet from lawyers, psychologists, sociologists, journalists and the public about the way the central evidence has been gathered and subsequently interpreted. If the professional consensus comes to a point where a majority say the verdict is not safe due to misinterpretation, then this would surely amount to reasonable doubt, and give impetus toward overturning the Ellis convictions.
Religioustolerance.org Summary of Peter Ellis case from their ‘ritual abuse’ files.
Satan’s Excellent Adventure in the Antipodes
in the journal Issues in Child Abuse Allegations is an article which explores the background to Christchurch Creche Case. Written by Michael Hill, Professor of Sociology, Victoria University of Wellington.
"The satanism scare," which began in North America in the early 1980s, arrived in Australia during the late 1980s and in New Zealand from 1990 onwards. Its importation was associated with conference presentations and published material by a small but key group of claims-makers, several of whom had been associated with the earlier McMartin preschool investigation. The influence of their claims on child protection professionals in both Australia and New Zealand is traced.