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Thread: Peter Ellis - a systemic failure of the justice system

  1. #1
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    Peter Ellis - a systemic failure of the justice system

    The controversy began when a mother, who was a sexual abuse counsellor and whose son attended the crèche, phoned the supervisor, Gaye Davidson, and accused Ellis of sexual abuse, saying her son had mentioned Ellis's penis.
    Ellis was put on leave subject to an internal investigation. The child himself denied he had been abused and no charges were laid in respect of him.

    The mother also complained to Detective Colin Eade and an investigation began. Due to keen media attention on Ellis's suspension, a meeting was called for all crèche children’s parents to seek to reassure them. Sue Sidney, a Social Welfare psychologist, gave the parents a list of sexual abuse signs to look for including bedwetting, nightmares and tantrums. They were told not to directly question the children themselves. The mother who originally complained was upset throughout the meeting, still alleging sexual abuse. Parents who were concerned their children might have been victims, started sending them to Sue Sidney to be interviewed on videotape.

    Ellis remained suspended through 1991 and into 1992. The original complainant mother approached more creche parents and warned them with details of what was allegedly going on. She placed her child in another facility where, soon afterwards, she alleged abuse by another male daycare worker. These allegations were found to be groundless.

    On 30 January 1992, another mother who had organised the parents’ meeting, went to Social Welfare alleging Ellis had abused her daughter who did not attend the crèche, but had been allegedly interfered with in a five minute time-span as the woman was picking up her son. Social Welfare and police believed they had a serious case of multiple child abuse based on Sue Sidney’s opinion that children she had interviewed had been sexually molested.

    about the same time, the McMartin case in the United Sates was receiving wide attention and Ellis’s supporters saw a parallel in what was happening to him. In the McMartin case, a whole family was convicted of sexually abusing children in their family-run childcare facility. Those accused included a 70 year old grandmother, her 56 year old daughter, her 23 year old niece and 25 year old grandson. They were convicted but the convictions were overturned on the basis that the allegations were probably the result of mass hysteria. The case began with a mother accusing the grandson at the crèche of sexually abusing her son. This accusation was later found to be false. In fact, the alleged victim’s own father had been interfering with him.

    On 31 March 1992, police and Social Welfare called a meeting of all past and present Civic Crèche parents. Ellis had been arrested the day before and charged with indecently assaulting the girl who had gone to the crèche with her mother, to pick up her brother. This charge was later dropped.

    At the meeting, parents were given pamphlets on child abuse, phone numbers to arrange videotaped interviews and were offered counselling and ACC compensation claim forms.
    (Up to $10,000 can be awarded in sexual abuse cases and the Accident Compensation Commission paid $300,000 to crèche parents before the trial).

    Ellis denied each allegation as it arose. The crèche continued to run but slowly parents began withdrawing their children. There were claims of sodomy, oral sex, penetration with fingers and sticks, rape, drinking urine, locking children in cages and suspending them in the roof and finally an alleged murder-sacrifice of a young boy known as Andrew. These incidents were said to have taken place in tunnels, rooftops, private houses, the Park Royal Hotel and cemeteries.
    Ellis faced 25 charges and in 1993, was found guilty on 16. Of interest was that there was no medical evidence to support the children's claims. The children had been subjected to several videotaped interviews and some added more incidents each time. (Since, new guidelines for video-taped interviews have been drawn up which say a child complainant should be questioned only once).

    Appeal fails

    In 1994, one of the children whom Ellis was convicted of abusing told her parents she had lied. The matter was taken to the Court of Appeal but was not upheld. The Court found that the retraction might well be a matter of self-denial on the alleged victim’s part, which does happen in some cases as victims seek to forget what happened to them.

    In his summing up, Judge Williamson told Ellis, “The jury also heard your own evidence and that of the other former Christchurch Civic Crèche workers. The jury disbelieved you. They believed the children and I agree with that assessment".
    Christchurch Queen’s Counsel Nigel Hampton told the 20/20 programme, and other reporters following the broadcast, that he was alarmed at the revelations about the two jurors who had not declared their interest, whom he said did not appear to fit into the necessary category of being detached and objective. (Hampton had worked on the Ellis appeal in 1994).

    Criticisms of the police case from Ellis’s supporters and in the 20/20 programme and in other media since include:

    • Children were questioned using discredited techniques which could have led to fabricated allegations.
    • Questioning produced some bizarre allegations which showed the children's evidence could not be relied on.
    • Ellis would have had difficulty in committing the offences unnoticed because of the crèche’s layout and the number of people passing through.
    • The absence of any unsolicited complaints about Ellis from crèche children.
    • Sharing information and rumour among crèche parents after a psychologically disturbed parent made the first allegation in 1991.

    Winstone Weallons, spokesperson for the Ellis support group is seeking an inquiry headed by someone from overseas, into the way police handled the investigation and for Ellis to be released immediately. (In an interesting aside, when Weallons was interviewed on Morning Report on 19 October, he said police had searched his home during the early part of the investigation. He said he told them then, ‘you had better be right about this, otherwise I am coming after you’.

    Solicitor Judith Ablett-Kerr acting for Ellis announced on Monday 17 November, she is to present a petition to the Governor General asking that Ellis be pardoned because of the apparent inconsistencies and areas of concern about the way the investigation and trial were handled.

    In March 1998 Peter Ellis became eligible for parole but refused to appear before the parole board stating that he would rather remain in jail than be freed on parole for crimes he did not commit. On Friday March 27th 1998 it was announced that the Governor General had recommended the case be referred back to the Court of Appeal.

  2. #2
    The major problem is that in New Zealand we have trial by media .. the police can release their version and the MSM in NZ goes squark squark who is a pretty polly and crucifies who ever the police hang out to dry .. The Govt are the ones .. they instruct the police .. the Peter Ellis affair is a prime example .. when it comes to social engineering we may rely upon the women .. the silence when the women were uncovered speaks for itself .. but nothing was done .. Helen the then PM sits in a cushy job in NY as her reward for a gross miscarriage of justice.

  3. #3
    False allegations can occur constructively when the witness doesn't understand how words of art are interpreted in court. One witness might refer to a man while another might refer to a male person. As far as the witnesses are concerned they are describing matters of fact, but in the context of court these are matters of law because the terms relate to the intangible character of the people concerned, specifically to the existence of rights and obligations.


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