The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

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December 16 2008

Government reconsidering Peter Ellis case
A transcript
Jonathan Coleman interviews Lynley Hood


JCThe justice minister Simon Power has agreed to look at holding an inquiry into the Peter Ellis case following requests by a number of high profile supporters. You will remember that Peter Ellis was found guilty in 1993 of a raft of sexual offences against children at the Christchurch Civic Creche. He has always maintained his innocence. He says the inquiry canít come soon enough. Well one campaigner for an inquiry is Lynley Hood. She wrote a book about the case, and Lynley joins us now.


LH - Good morning


JCSimon Power says he will look at holding an inquiry. How confident are you that this will happen?


LH - Well, itís a hopeful sign. Weíll have to wait and see, but thank goodness heís agreed to look at it.


JC - How difficult do you think this process will be given the time that has lapsed and the fact that we are dealing with memories from very early childhood?


LH - I donít think we need to revisit the memories of people particularly. I think a Commission of Inquiry needs to look at the documentation, and try and understand how an ambiguous comment from a three year old boy turned into a huge court case that ripped apart a city and ruined the lives of more than a dozen well qualified child care workers as well as putting one in jail.


JC What was that ambiguous comment from a three year old boy?


LH - Well we donít know for sure, because it was reported by his mother who was a rather obsessive sex abuse therapist and he never repeated it in any interviews with CYPS or anybody. She claimed he said ďI donít like Peterís black penisĒ And there are a lot of Peters in his life, and whether thatís what he said, we donít know. But thatís what set it all off and you think how can that happen?. We must have investigative procedures that canít distinguish between true and false allegations or canít test them and a justice system that has trouble distinguishing between the innocent and the guilty when sex abuse allegations are concerned so it goes much wider than Peter Ellis.


JC - If an inquiry was to be held, what form would it likely take?


LH - I think it needs an overseas judge because so many senior judges in New Zealand have already had some involvement in the case. And like with Arthur Allan Thomas they had a commission of inquiry into his case, they got an Australian judge who could be totally independent and do a robust job


JC - Whatís Peter Ellis doing now?


LH - Itís very difficult really, Heís still a convicted child molester. But heís certainly had a peopleís pardon. I mean heís never been ?? or harrassed or anything. People come up to him in the street and shake his hand when he is out and about but you know he stillís got this awful conviction hanging over him


JC - And how important is it that this is heard?


LH - Well itís important for Peter Ellis and everybody whose lives were touched, but itís important for all of us. We are still blighted by what was both said into and off the case, which the notion that all men, even the most decent of men are in part a dangerous sexual predator who canít be trusted around children. And thatís affecting the teaching profession. All these underlying issues that never get near the courts but a commission of inquiry could look at are really important to be aired and examined and brought out in the open


JC - You are convinced that Peter Ellis is innocent?


LH - Yes


JC - Why?


LH - Well thereís no reliable evidence that anything ever happened at the creche and there is a great deal of evidence that it couldnít have happened and he was the last person who would be remotely interested in molesting children. And there were large numbers of parents who donít believe it, but at the time they were intimidated, or just walked away and said they did not want their kids being part of this madness. But it was a very small but very shrill minority that drove this case. And I donít hold it against them. Itís the authorities who went with it and got swept away that caused so much damage.


JC - Have you spoken recently to any of the children who were at the creche at the time?


LH - Well they are not children now.


JC - Yes I know


LH - Theyíre adults now. Peter Ellis has been invited to a number of 21st birthday parties. There may be one or two who have been in this dreadful therapy that they give people that encourages false allegations, false memories who believe ...God knows what they believe


JC - What of those who have invited them to 21st and the like. What have they said about it?


LH - They feel really badly that this has happened and wish they could do something to turn it around.


JC - So how many of the others, How many other children have been having therapy and who are still convinced that Peter Ellis did something to them?


LH - I donít know. I donít know, but there wonít be very many


JC - Lynley, thanks very much for your time.




JC - Thatís Lynley Hood, who is a campaigner for an inquiry into Peter Ellis.