9:35p.m., Saturday 16 August, 2003
“Edwards at Large” Transcript
Presenter Brian Edwards
Segment with Lynley Hood
Brian Edwards In recent months there appears to
have been a ground swell of public support for a further review of the conviction
of Peter Ellis for the sexual abuse of children in his care at the Christchurch
Civic Creche. There can be little doubt
that much of the impetus for this ground swell including the petition calling
for a Royal Commission to look into the case has come from Lynley Hood whose
almost 700 page book, A City Possessed,
critically examined the evidence presented at Ellis’s trial and the conduct of
the subsequent appeals and the inquiry by Sir Thomas Eichelbaum. Well, Hood has received no less than three
Montana awards for A City Possessed and
a Doctorate in Literature from Otago University for it and her previous books
on Sylvia Ashton-Warner and Minnie Dean.
Could she, nonetheless, have got it wrong.
Well, Lynley Hood, it is very nice to have you here tonight. There have been some interesting developments today. Two of the young people who were questioned during the investigations into the Ellis affair have now come out, they are teenagers of course, and they are expressing an interest in appearing at the hearing in parliament into all of this. What is your response to that?
Lynley Hood Well, I think it is once again the
sex abuse industry hiding behind the children.
The people who should be accounting for themselves are the interviewers
and therapists and professionals involved, the kids are pawns in all of this,
and once again they are pawns.
Brian Edwards These two teenager, as I understand,
are the same two young people who appeared in Barry Colman’s ad, whose
interviews appeared in Barry Colman’s ad which he paid I think $25,000 for in
the Sunday Star Times are the same two children I understand.
Lynley Hood Yes
Brian Edwards So, I don’t quite follow your
argument here because if they are now teenagers and able to make reasonable
conclusions about what in, what happened to them, and able to go back to their
memories now, surely, it would go very much against Peter Ellis if they now say
“Yes, what we said before, we now hold to”?
Lynley Hood We know that the interviewing
techniques, the ones that were recorded, and we also know they were questioned
a lot and continuous therapy with techniques that are known to create false
memories and this was all in a climate where they were told that Peter was a
bad man and he had to be put in jail and they had to help get him there and
they were asked leading questions about Peter and bottoms and poos and wees
and, you know, for months and they said nothing happened and they liked Peter
and they liked the crčche. And they
basically eventually cracked under pressure.
And their memories have been utterly stuffed around. There, there’s no way that what they remember
now can be remotely reliable.
Brian Edwards So you think these teenagers are
going to be incapable of even knowing what happened to them?
Lynley Hood Ooh, absolutely, yes, yes. I mean, we know that from. I mean they are talking about Peter’s mother
hanging them up in cages for goodness sake and there is absolutely no evidence
to support that. I mean, the thought of
her doing anything like that or being physically able to do it.
Brian Edwards You see, now we are having
parliament look at this again. You
wonder how much is going to happen before people like you are going to be
satisfied and I am just going to go through the opportunities he has already
had. He started off with a deposition
hearing, then we had the trial, then we had two High Court appeals, then we had
an inquiry by a highly respected former high court judge, indeed, Chief Justice
Sir Tomas Eichelbaum. How much more do
Lynley Hood Well, it is just not me who, you
know, there are a raft of law professors and QC’s saying, in this case, the
justice system has failed, and failed catastrophically at all these levels and
is incapable of self correcting. So there
is something terribly wrong and that is why we need a commission of inquiry.
Brian Edwards Well, in a sense, Lynley, well it’s
you that has kicked it off isn’t it. I
Lynley Hood Ooh
Brian Edwards You have got the ball rolling. And just as there was a sort of snow ball
effect that you talk about in the build up to this whole case, there is a sort
of another snow ball effect now, with people saying “ooh, he must be innocent”,
writing letters to the papers, and on and on it goes. Barry Colman stuck there. So you have got a whole new snow ball effect
now haven’t we?
Lynley Hood Well, I wrote the book initially to
get, I thought there has got to be a story here and I am going to get to the
bottom of it. And I wasn’t concerned
whether Ellis was guilty or innocent or anything else. It was just a story that demanded to be
written and once I got into it, um, I just found scandal after scandal, cover
up after cover up, and at that point I thought I’ve got to get this right and I
spent seven years dotting the “i” and crossing the “t” and I thought I would
put it out there and people can read it and make up their own minds and at
least I will be able to live with myself in my old age. So I wasn’t telling people to do
anything. I was just saying, read it and
make up your own minds, and this was the response. I was not campaigning.
Brian Edwards I find it a little bit hard to
believe that you started off just to tell the story. Because, it seems to me that you started off
an absolute mind set. You spent the
first two hundred pages of your book basically telling the reader what a
dreadful place Christchurch is and how what we have now got in this case, is
that actually a new Salem witches situation.
You started off with that mind set didn’t you?
Lynley Hood No, but, that is what the people
were telling me. I mean, even the
complainants were telling me stories of ritual satanic events and I was saying
where did these ideas come from. And it
was the search to make sense of what the complainants were saying about phantom
pornography rings and ritual satanic abuse in a child care centre that leaves
absolutely no trace. What on earth is
this all about? And, it was the, I was
at the time writing a book on Minnie Dean.
Brian Edwards Yes
Lynley Hood And that was mass hysteria at a
distance and over again, over the care of children and how ancious people
become. I thought, wow, I can study this
phenomenon close up.
Brian Edwards But that is precisely my point. You were doing this book on Minnie Deans,
with all that moral panic that you were talking about
Lynley Hood Yes
Brian Edwards And it suddenly occurred to you,
that here was another case,
Lynley Hood Yes, but
Brian Edwards with the same sort of thing. So you were with that mind set before you
Lynley Hood But even the prosecutors and crown
witnesses were saying there was mass hysteria.
I mean the book, they told me, and that is what I went to examine as to
what the social dynamic of it was.
Brian Edwards Then you had this absolutely curious
view of Christchurch. I lived in Christchurch for five years when I came here
and I didn’t recognise the Christchurch that was described in your book.
Lynley Hood Well, I have heard quite a few of
people say I have got it absolutely right.
Yeah, lots of people said to me. “Well, it had to happen in Christchurch
didn’t it”. And I would say ”Why?”. And they would say to me “Because it is so
Brian Edwards Now, I have got to say. I have actually got that quote down
here. You say “The flatness of the city
makes it easier for anyone with a bright idea to gather together enough like
minded people to turn any theory, be it dazzling enlightening or downright
flaky into action”. The flatness of the
Lynley Hood Yeah, but
Brian Edwards Hold on. What on earth can the flatness of the city
have to do with Peter Ellis’ guilt or innocence?
Lynley Hood No, I am just saying that it allows
movements to get into fruition. Um, and all
these half baked
Brian Edwards I don’t understand that…
Brian Edwards What, because you can drive a car
Lynley Hood Yes, yes, you can have a committee
meeting much easier. There are national
bodies, like starting with suffragettes, can get organised much easier in
Christchurch because it is flat, than you can in a hilly place. That is all I
am saying. And,
Brian Edwards You are smiling, don’t you see an
element of absurdity in what you are telling me here.
Lynley Hood No
Brian Edwards That the flatness of the city
Lynley Hood No, no
Brian Edwards That the flatness of the city give
Lynley Hood No, No
Brian Edwards Some indication of the chances of
Peter Ellis chances of getting a fair trial.
Lynley Hood No, I am not. No, I am not making that belief at all.
Brian Edwards OK
Lynley Hood I am saying the flatness of the city
made it easy for people who believed in rituals to commit abuse to get together
and look around and think where is it happening
Brian Edwards All right. During the commercial break, I am going to
try and think about that one and we will come back and talk to you some
more. We will be back with Lynley Hood
after the break.
Brian Edwards I am talking to Lynley Hood. Lynley, there is one it seems to me to be one
critical piece of information that you didn’t have when writing your book and
that is that you were not present at any of these trials. So that critical ingredient is that you are
not able first hand to judge the credibility of any of those witnesses,
parents, children, police, anybody, you weren’t there?
Lynley Hood I read the entire transcript from
the depositions and the trial
Brian Edwards That is not the same.
Lynley Hood I interviewed all the people
Brian Edwards Yes
Lynley Hood I think I know the depositions and
the trial far better than the people that were there. And I also interviewed them all, at length,
Brian Edwards No, you didn’t
Lynley Hood Well, almost
Brian Edwards No, you didn’t. You haven’t interviewed all the parents.
Lynley Hood Yes, well, that is not my fault. I
gave them the opportunity.
Brian Edwards No, but nonetheless, you haven’t
interviewed all the parents.
Lynley Hood I have read the notes they made
while talking to the children. I have
read their statements to the police. I
have read their evidence under oath. I
have read their statements to other media.
I mean I have got a really good overview of where they are coming from.
Brian Edwards Well, another thing that bothers me.
Lynley Hood I have read the book that one of
them has written
Brian Edwards Ooh, all right. One of the
things that bothers me about the
Barry Colman stuff, the huge two page advertisement that appeared in the Sunday
Star Times is that, that that is only a tiny, tiny fraction of the evidence
given by those children and yet you yourself complained that the jury didn’t
hear all the evidence from the children either. Now this is just,
Lynley Hood Well
Brian Edwards Doing the same thing again, I mean
Lynley Hood No, it has all gone onto a
website. The complete transcript. So people can read them and make up their own
Brian Edwards Yes, but, the purpose of those pages
that were published in the Sunday Star Times as I understand it, with the … of
the reader. Look, you see all this
extravagant claims that these children made, that they had burning paper shoved
up their bums, that they were hung from cages and rooms and all the rest of it,
so therefore you can dismiss the rest of the stuff, they say. that they were interfered with
by Peter Ellis. It doesn’t necessarily
follow at all, does it?
Lynley Hood Well, uh, you need the whole
context, but really when you sit down and analyse what he was accused of, and
the layout of the crčche and the way that it functioned. There is no way that any of it could have
happened. Umh, yes, I agree, you need
the whole thing.
Brian Edwards Nonetheless you see. You have I think you have seven children who
say that there were indecently assaulted, or sexually abused or interfered
with, whatever you want to call it, by Peter Ellis. Seven kids say that.
Lynley Hood One of them retracted.
Brian Edwards Retracted yes.
Lynley Hood And she was the oldest and most
Brian Edwards Right
Lynley Hood And she said she had said those things because she thought that is
what her mother and interviewer wanted her to say.
Brian Edwards So right, you have six children who
say that Peter Ellis did these things.
Lynley Hood Yes, well we’ve only got two who are
still saying it as far as we know.
Brian Edwards Right,
Lynley Hood It is just. I
Brian Edwards We don’t know about it about the
Lynley Hood No, no, we don’t know.
Brian Edwards It is no good saying, we don’t know
what they are saying
Lynley Hood We don’t know, exactly.
Brian Edwards I mean
Lynley Hood I mean I would have lay money that the
mother who rounded up the other one, rang round all six and for all we know the
other four said “Go to hell”.
Brian Edwards Lynley, laying money is not a
Lynley Hood No
Brian Edwards It is not evidence really.
Lynley Hood Well, it would be an
interesting. You see if we get a full
commission of inquiry they could have a private hearing and talk to not only
those complainants but the scores of now teenage children who have signed the petition
calling for a full inquiry, because they went to the crčche and they loved
it. And they have never been heard by
any court and neither have their parents.
You know normally, when you get an alleged crime say, at a party, the
police interview everyone at the party.
But when you got an alleged crime at the crčche, they just interviewed
this core group of complainants and the other maybe four hundred families who
used it, who said “Look, I think you should know about what a good place it
is”, the police said, “Go away, we are not interested, we are only interested
if you’ve got something bad to say.”
Brian Edwards Do you agree with me that if even on
one occasion Peter Ellis interfered with one child in his care that would be
sufficient for him to be charged, arrested, and if found guilty, sent to
Lynley Hood Well, sure.
Brian Edwards You, you agree with that?
Lynley Hood Yeah
Brian Edwards So, you are discounting that as a
possibility. That there was no
interference, even with one child on one occasion. You discard that possibility?
Lynley Hood Absolutely. I mean these were the kids that were brought
up to scream blue murder if anyone touched them inappropriately and were read
books about secret touching and how you had to tell and all that sort of thing. And, during that three or so years at the
crčche, none of them said boo. They all
said that they liked Peter and they liked the crčche.
Brian Edwards Yes
Lynley Hood It was only after they had left, I
mean, you know, that the thing took off. That they were interviewed and
initially, again, they said they liked the crčche, they liked Peter, and it was
months of questioning before they came up with any allegations.
Brian Edwards I think another thing that concerns
me about your book is the amount of which you might call ad hominem attack on
people you disagree with in the book.
And so you mean.
Lynley Hood What
Brian Edwards Well there is a whole lot of
them. I mean you look at some of the
people, like Dr Karen Zelas, ahh. In one
part of the book you actually go through all, all the letters she’s got after
her name. All her qualifications, and
you dismiss them one by one. You say
well this is nothing, that is nothing, that doesn’t mean anything.
Lynley Hood Yeah, well
Brian Edwards And you do this with the
parents. I mean you portray some of the
parents as a bit neurotic or a bit nuts, some of the children as disturbed
Lynley Hood Well, some of them were
Brian Edwards Well, this is the bit. You are not dealing with the facts or the
Lynley Hood No, no, but
Brian Edwards This is a personal attack on the
people giving the evidence.
Lynley Hood But you’ve got to consider the
credibility of the people as well as what they are actually saying. I mean, that is what juries do.
Brian Edwards You remember the old days when, when
rape victims would come into court and all their past would be dragged up and
how many sexual partners they had had and so on, and we came to accept that
that sort of thing is irrelevant. In a
sort of a way, that is the same thing that you do
Lynley Hood No, No
Brian Edwards You say, have a look at all these
people’s past, can we really believe what they are saying.
Lynley Hood But, that is what everybody does in
life. I mean, the mother of one of those
two children, has in separate court cases been roundly ticked off by the judge
for telling whoppers. You know, I think
you need to take these things into consideration.
Brian Edwards All right. OK. Tell me as quickly as you can. What are your main reasons for believing
there should now be a commission of inquiry or a royal commission?
Lynley Hood Because the issues affect
everybody of sex abuse hysteria and false allegations that need to be
addressed. The way that sex abuse
allegations are investigated and prosecuted, make it difficult for courts to
distinguish between the innocent and the guilty. And at the other end there is the problem of
the Court of Appeal not being able to undo its own mistake.
Brian Edwards So you’re convinced that Peter Ellis
is not guilty.
Lynley Hood Absolutely.
Brian Edwards Lynley, thank you very much indeed.