Bridges: Peter Ellis conviction “fundamentally was a miscue”, but too bad

Peter Ellis was found guilty of 16 sexual offences in 1993, related to his time working at the Christchurch Civic Creche. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

There were absurd allegations, and there were serious question raised about the investigation and especially about how children were interviewed, and how bizarre claims were promoted by the prosecution.

If there was ever a case that needed reassessing I think the Ellis case must be at the top of the list.

National leader Simon Bridges has now said – speaking as a lawyer – that the conviction “fundamentally was a miscue”, but disappointingly then dropped the ball and kicked it back under the carpet.

Newsroom: Bridges backs Peter Ellis over wrongful conviction claim

Peter Ellis, the former childcare worker who claims he was wrongfully convicted of child sex abuse, has a new advocate – National leader Simon Bridges.

Speaking at a community event in Auckland on Friday morning, Bridges was asked about his views on Ellis’ case and the broader issue of wrongful convictions.

“I say this as Simon Bridges, lawyer, not as Simon Bridges, politician: when I look at all of the convictions you see in New Zealand, people have all of these views…there’s only one that I would say fundamentally was a miscue, and that’s the Peter Ellis one.”

Bridges told Newsroom after the event he believed Ellis had been subject to a miscarriage of justice.

“My view is if you look at it out of all the other ones, people have their different views but you look at the evidence [for other wrongful conviction claims], there’s definitely a prosecution case there.

“The difference with the Peter Ellis one was there were things that went awry in the prosecution and the investigation, and there was something of a witch hunt about that one.”

I think that just about everyone accepts this. Good on Bridges for saying it out loud.

However, Bridges stopped short of calling for an inquiry or any other action, saying he was unsure whether “all these years on there are necessarily things to be done”.

That’s an extremely disappointing response. It is important that justice is seen to be done, and that means rectifying injustice.

In 2015, the National government knocked back a request for a commission of inquiry into the case, with then-Justice Minister Amy Adams saying it was not the right mechanism to determine his guilt or innocence.

That was even more disappointing. If a commission of inquiry isn’t ‘the right mechanism’ why the hell hasn’t any Government since the conviction ensured the right mechanism was used to right what looks like a disgraceful injustice?

One of the biggest flaws in our justice system is the great difficulty it has with dealing with bad decisions and undoing harm done to innocent people.

Some eventually get some redress, like Arthur Allan Thomas and Teina Pora – but they took far too long.

Despite his views on Ellis, Bridges was lukewarm about Justice Minister Andrew Little’s work on a Criminal Cases Review Commission to look at apparent miscarriages of justice, telling the crowd there were “many safety valves in the system”.

Those ‘safety valves’ sometimes fail badly, as they seem to have in the Ellis case.

If Little succeeds in setting up a Criminal Cases Review Commission that may or may not help Ellis have his case reviewed, but that is likely to be years away at best.

It is good to hear Bridges prepared to openly criticise the Ellis conviction, but he has not gone far enough.

This should be a no-brainer for showing real leadership, especially with his background as a lawyer and prosecutor. Unfortunately Bridges has broomed this under the carpet.


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  July 21, 2018

    Excellent post, PG. Unfortunately both the Ellis case and Bridges are a travesty. He’ll have to go. He doesn’t have it up top and I can only guess he was chosen as leader because others had too many enemies.

    • Gezza

       /  July 21, 2018

      He’s National’s Andy Little. I haven’t made up my mind whether the main problem is that he’s too short on intellectual RAM or that he just lacks the spine to stake out the positions he holds & show some balls in unequivocally declaring them.

      Waiting on the next interminably slow set of polls to see how he’s doing. If he isn’t climbing up fast enuf I’d say he’s a gonner. But there’s no hurry to burn him. As long as a new leader who can actually lead has about 3-6 months to prepare & declare National’s policy they have plenty of time to target & focus their campaign.

      • He is probably right when he says that there is a limit to what can be done legally, as the ground has been gone over so many times.I don’t see any point in a retrial, for instance.

        Peter Ellis was a victim of the era of belief in satanic abuse. I don’t now and didn’t then believe that he was guilty.If ithad been a straight-forward case of kiddy-fiddling it might have been credible, but the other things like dancing in a circle naked while burning paper was pushed up the victims’ bums were impossible.

        And if he was guilty, they all were.

        I saw a woman on Oprah who had courageously blown the whistle on a ‘counsellor’ who had persuaded her that she had been a victim of the sort of insane things claimed at the creche trial. She said that the counsellor had made her see these things as if they had actually happened and even remember how it felt to have hot wax dripped onto her and so on. It was supposedly her family who had done it at the grandparents’ house and you may imagine the distress caused. When the health insurance money ran out, the counsellor dropped the woman when she couldn’t come up with any more money. She then began to realise that she had been had and that these things had never happened. She had indeed been a victim; of the unscrupulous woman who had seen her as a nice little earner.

        I heard an interview with a now adult ‘victim’ of Peter Ellis who was on RNZ with his mother. It sounded horribly convincing at first and my heart sank….until the two began to go into too much detail and contradict their own and each others’ story as people do to invest verisimilitude by embroidering. The boy had seen Peter Ellis on the news at the time and said that he had done all those things to him….BUT he had blocked his face out and only recognised and remembered it all recently and so on. There was too much for me to remember it all, but that stayed in my mind.

        It later appeared that the boy hadn’t been at the creche when Peter Ellis was there (except possibly one day as work experience ?) and that his mother and he had been such pests when he WAS there that she had been asked to remove him. .

        • There can’t be two people who DON’T agree that there have been grave miscarriages of justice here, no sane person could believe that Peter Ellis did those things and that accusations of ritual abuse are true.

  2. duperez

     /  July 21, 2018

    Bridges was not speaking as a lawyer. He was speaking as the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of a major political party in New Zealand who has a legal background, who used to be a lawyer.

    If he were still ‘just’ a lawyer in Auckland or a Crown prosecutor in Tauranga would there be a major news story on his opinion in this case? His opinion is sought because of his political roles.

    Interesting that the opportunity to show some leadership and some freshness of thought was dodged. He sort of put the togs on but is happy to sunbathe on the side of the pool. Doesn’t want to get wet, wouldn’t ease into the water and wouldn’t plunge in with a splash? Is he scared of getting wet, fearful of gentle ripples caused by slipping in upsetting someone, can’t swim and doesn’t want people to see, or afraid that jumping in full bore will cause big waves and big outrage?

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  July 21, 2018

      Seems to be a pattern there, duperez. And it is not leadership material.

      • Let’s not forget that he was ASKED what he thought, he didn’t volunteer the information at a press conference. He was asked and he answered.

        • He didn’t say that it was ‘too bad’, but the heading makes it sound as if he had.

          This is a bit mean, I think, as it distorts what he really said and puts words in his mouth.

  3. Chuck Bird

     /  July 21, 2018

    I see there have been only 3 comments on this issues. Maybe Simon Bridges sees there are not many votes on this issue. He should be more interested in what is right on an issues like this.

  4. Blazer

     /  July 21, 2018

    the dark side of human nature prevailed in the Ellis case.
    I understand the complainants all received 10k.

    • Gezza

       /  July 21, 2018

      American feminist-social worker /psychologist-inspired hysteria took over in this case. It was an absolute travesty & a horror story watching it unfold.

      I toyed for a while with the idea of maybe considering a bit of childcare work as I really liked looking after other peoples kids & taking them to the park, or the kids movies etc .

      This case told me more than any other not to go near it. That the way things were in that field of employment by then you wouldn’t even be able to gently pat or put your arm around a crying child while you soothed them with the usual sympathetic words until their little graze or bruise stopped hurting in case some man-hater or over-anxious female co worker suggested to others that maybe you were a kiddy-fiddler.

      How can you act in loco parentis as a man if you can’t behave like any good, normal dad?

      • ’twas ever thus to some extent. When my mother was at teachers’ college, they were told to observe the ‘three foot rule’. Never be nearer than that to a child if you find yourself alone with one. And never ‘keep in’ one child. In the unlikely event that nobody will do anything that can be used as a reason to keep them in as well, make some excuse to let the first one off.

        I have told the story of a headmaster whose career was ruined by an ungrateful little bitch who accused him of touching her when he jumped in and saved her when she was in trouble in the water. He should have let her drown.

  5. Corky

     /  July 21, 2018

    First there was National and Pike River. Now we have National and the Ellis case. Bridges should just have shut up.

    The hysteria created in this case has similarities to Satanic Cults killing babies. I don’t think there’s one recorded case where this has be proven. Sure , it happens with some genuine cults. But they would never, ever be caught.

    I hope Ellis is OK. He had a heart attack a few years back.

    • He was asked a question.

      He answered it.

      What was he supposed to do ?

      • Corky

         /  July 21, 2018

        Shut up after giving short reply if he wasn’t sure of what he would do.

  6. Winston Wealleans

     /  July 21, 2018

    The Peter Ellis case also worried Simon Power.

    VALEDICTORY STATEMENT: Hon Simon Power 6 October 2011. with reference to Royal Prerogative of Mercy applications – “Although the Peter Ellis matter was straightforward in the end – because appeal rights had not yet been exhausted (a basic requirement of the exercise of the Prerogative of Mercy) – the wider case worried me and continues to worry me.”

  7. Kevin

     /  July 21, 2018

    Bridges is so wet he should be in the Greens.

    The Ellis case has been reviewed and reviewed and each time he lost. And he wasn’t found guilty of the more absurd allegations but was found guilty of molesting a fourteen year old girl for which the court found more than sufficient evidence.

  8. Winston Wealleans

     /  July 21, 2018

    Bridges needs to browse through That should give him a few clues as to what went wrong.

  9. Gezza

     /  July 21, 2018

    What exactly is a “miscue”?

    Sounds like it just means actors say their lines at the wrong time.

    • Gezza

       /  July 21, 2018

      noun: miscue; plural noun: miscues
      1. (in billiards and snooker) a shot in which the player fails to strike the ball properly with the cue.
      (in other sports) a faulty strike, kick, or catch.
      “Guillen at shortstop made just three miscues in 160 games”
      a mistake.
      “political miscues that led to resignations”

      verb: miscue; 3rd person present: miscues; past tense: miscued; past participle: miscued; gerund or present participle: miscueing; gerund or present participle: miscuing

      1.(in snooker and other sports) fail to strike (the ball or a shot) properly.
      “he miscued a simple penalty in the sixth minute”

      noun: miscue; plural noun: miscues
      an error in reading, especially one caused by failure to respond correctly to a phonetic or contextual cue in the text.
      “miscue analysis is a way of listening to children read aloud for diagnostic purposes”

      • Maggy Wassilieff

         /  July 21, 2018

        Miscue – a blunder; a mistake

        • Gezza

           /  July 21, 2018

          What’s wrong with the man? Why not just say that?

  10. sorethumb

     /  July 21, 2018

    I know someone who had an affair with a 14 year old. The wife found out. Husband told 14 year old to deny it. 14 year old denied it. Have been happily married for a few decades.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  July 22, 2018

      And the fourteen-year-old? Did she escape victimhood or suffer from it?