Peter Ellis appeal allowed to proceed

The Supreme Court is allowing the Peter Ellis appeal to proceed despite Ellis dying in September 2019.


Mr Ellis was convicted on 16 charges of sexual offending against seven children in 1993. He appealed twice to the Court of Appeal, the second time after a referral by the Governor-General. The first appeal quashed three of the convictions. The second appeal against the remaining 13 convictions was dismissed in 1999.

Mr Ellis was granted leave to appeal against those remaining convictions by the Supreme Court on 31 July 2019. Mr Ellis passed away on 4 September 2019. The issue arose as to whether the appeal should continue, despite his death.

The Supreme Court has decided that the appeal should continue.

Reasons for this decision will be provided at the same time as the decision on the substantive appeal is released.

Please note that the publication of the names or identifying particulars of the complainants and child witnesses under the age of 17 is prohibited by ss 139 and 139A of the Criminal Justice Act 1985.

The Judgment (which says much the same): Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis v R

Ellis was acquitted on a further nine charges. He was also discharged on three charges during the trial under s 347 of the Crimes Act 1961.

I’m pleased to see this proceeding. It’s just a real shame Ellis has died before seeing it go through. Of course there’s no guarantee what the outcome will be but I think that aspects of the trial and the convictions raised serious questions that haven’t been properly resolved yet.

if you want a refresher on the Ellis case:

Tikanga could be appropriate for posthumous appeals law?

From Gezza:

Peter Ellis, controversially convicted of child sexual abuse in the Christchurch Civic Creche case, died of advanced bladder cancer before his appeal, seeking to clear his name, could be heard.

Courts in commonwealth countries have traditionally considered that someone’s interest in an appeal ends when they die, as it will not affect them either way.

But Justice Joe Williams threw a curveball into the arguments from both sides when he suggested that New Zealand didn’t need to follow decisions set in any other country, and could establish an entirely new rule based on tikanga Māori.

“There’s nothing to say that the appellant’s case dies when they do … This is a very western idea that on demise you have nothing to protect.

“If we are serious about tikanga, should New Zealand divert from that very anglo approach?” he said. “In a tikanga context … an ancestor has even more reputation to protect. There’s more tapu, more mana to protect.”

This generated some heated discussions across the bench, as Justices debated whether that would open the floodgates for too many cases to be brought forward, and asked for someone to find some statistics.

Neither had prepared arguments either for or against a tikanga approach when preparing for the hearing, though the Crown did concede that it was something “the court must be open to”.

The case was adjourned for five weeks to allow both sides to bring submissions addressing the issue of tikanga, and will continue in the new year.
… … …
This is an interesting development. Given that not just Peter Ellis is affected by his conviction, if in fact he was wrongly convicted. His family are too.

The only other circumstances I can think of off hand where a person subsequently held to have been wrongfully convicted has had their convictions effectively quashed – long after their deaths (by execution) – have occurred as pardons, as part of Treaty Settlements (Mokomoko, Kereopa Te Rau).

Rua Kēnana was wrongfully convicted of sedition & sentenced to a year in prison, then released. Eventually Rua moved to Matahi, a community he had founded on the Waimana River in the eastern Bay of Plenty in 1910, where he lived until his death on 20 February 1937, and was survived by five wives, nine sons, and 13 daughters. – Wikipedia

These pardons haven’t generated a flood of requests for posthumous pardons as far as I know.

I think the suggestion that NZ could develop its own law around this situation, rather than simply follow British law – as I assume we do – is a good one & look forward to seeing the Court’s eventual decision & reasoning.

Peter Ellis appeal to be heard by Supreme Court

Peter Ellis was found guilty on 13 charges of abusing children at the Christchurch Civic Creche in 1993. He served seven years of a 10-year prison term, being released in 2000.

There were a number of controversial aspects of the investigation and trial of Ellis, including a range of bizarre allegations, and I think the case is deserving of being re-examined.

In 2015 Justice Minister Amy Adams declined a request from supporters for a commission of inquiry, saying it did not contain new evidence and would not determine guilt – see Peter Ellis considers Privy Council bid

The Supreme Court has now accepted an appeal from Ellis.

Case Name Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis v The Queen
Summary Criminal Appeal – Whether there was a miscarriage of justice arising from risks of contamination of or improperly obtained complainant evidence – Whether there was a miscarriage of justice arising from lack of expert evidence on the reliability of children complainants’ evidence – Whether there was a miscarriage of justice due to unreliable expert evidence being led at trial.
Judgment appealed from – Court of Appeal CA 120/98 14 October 1999

Court of Appeal decision: The Queen v Ellis [1999] NZCA 226; [2000] 1 NZLR 513; (2000) 17 CRNZ 411 (14 October 1999)


[1] Peter Hugh McGregor Ellis faced trial in the Christchurch High Court on 28 counts alleging sexual offences against a number of young children attending the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre. The trial commenced on 26 April 1993 and at its conclusion some six weeks later he was convicted on 16 counts. Three were the subject of a discharge by the Judge during trial, and 9 verdicts of acquittal were entered. On 22 September he was sentenced to an effective term of 10 years imprisonment. On appeal to this Court, in a judgment delivered on 8 September 1994 now reported as R v Ellis (1994) 12 CRNZ 172, three of the counts against one complainant were because of her retraction quashed and verdicts of acquittal directed, but the appeal was otherwise dismissed. Following two applications made to the Governor-General, acting pursuant to s406(a) of the Crimes Act 1961 His Excellency referred the question of the 13 convictions to this Court for hearing and determination. The Order in Council is dated 12 May 1999, identifies five broad grounds contained in the applications, and records these as forming the reasons for the reference.


[95] For the reasons stated, we are not persuaded that any individual ground of appeal has been made out. Neither are we persuaded that their cumulative effect constitutes a miscarriage of justice. The appeal is therefore dismissed.

Now from Stuff:  Peter Ellis asks Supreme Court to hear his appeal over Civic Creche convictions

Ellis, now 61, served seven years of a 10-year jail sentence, before being released in February 2000.

The lawyer who represented him at his trial in 1993, Rob Harrison, is once again on the case and says thousands of hours of work had been done looking at the field of child psychology and what impacts on young interview subjects.

“It deserves to be aired and looked at again,” Harrison said.

Developments in research undertaken over the past 25 years gave better information about how children respond and how to get information from them.

“I would have often thought about the case and it’s one of those cases that is always there.

“It needs to be resolved and it’s a shame it has taken us this long.”

Ellis stood trial at the High Court in Christchurch in 1993, and was convicted of 16 charges after a six-week trial. He had been discharged on some charges and acquitted on others.

Three of the convictions were overturned on appeal in 1994 when one of the complainants retracted her allegations.

Following applications to the governor-general to exercise the prerogative of mercy, the case was referred back to the Court of Appeal in 1999, but the remaining 13 convictions stood.

Throughout, the case called into question the techniques used to interview child complainants and the risk that their evidence might have been contaminated.

It was suggested parents and professional interviewers had asked direct and suggestive questions of children, and that the children were spoken to repeatedly about the allegations.

The Supreme Court has a two-step appeal process.

The court first decides if it will hear the appeal, based on whether it is in the interests of justice. The judges consider whether it is a matter of general public importance, and whether a substantial miscarriage of justice has occurred or will occur if the appeal is not heard.

It is only if the court gives permission that an appeal can be heard.

Since Ellis was first convicted the Supreme Court has taken over from the Privy Council in London as New Zealand’s highest court. The Crown had agreed to Ellis taking his case to the Supreme Court rather than seeking a Privy Council appeal.

The Ellis case has prompted more scrutiny than almost any other in New Zealand’s legal history, involving three court hearings, four petitions seeking his pardon, and numerous other campaigns.

A senior Christchurch lawyer who had previously represented Ellis, Nigel Hampton, QC, has continued to take an interest.

“I think it is a festering sore,” he said recently.

Hampton said then he would not want judges appointed to a commission, and favoured allowing reviews to continue even after the subject of them had died.

“Peter Ellis comes to mind. If he were to die. I think [that] is an extraordinary miscarriage of justice.”

“In contrast to most miscarriage cases, where the wrong person is convicted of something, Ellis has been convicted of crimes that never existed. If he were to die, he would still die a convicted man.”

Obviously this is an important case for Ellis, and a test of the way in which child abuse cases are investigated, but it is also a very important test of the New Zealand judicial system, which seems averse to challenging questionable verdicts.



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.

Peter Ellis injustice swept under Government carpet

I don’t know much about the specific legal arguments behind the Government ruling out an independent inquiry into the Peter Ellis case but it appears that again the easy option is to sweep it under a carpet and try to forget it ever happened.

There’s serious question marks over the whole case that dates back to 1993. To learn properly from it requires an honest and thorough inquiry into what went wrong.

Sad to see Justice Minister Amy Adams denying that opportunity.

It looks like another case of the system protecting major botch ups from the scrutiny they deserve and should get.

Details from Stuff: Government declines inquiry into convictions of Peter Ellis

The Government has ruled against an independent inquiry into the sexual assault convictions of Peter Ellis.

Justice Minister Amy Adams has declined a request from supporters of Ellis for a commission of inquiry, saying it did not contain new evidence and an inquiry would not determine matters of guilt.

The push for an inquiry was led by former National Party leader Don Brash, who along with Dunedin author Lynley Hood, wrote to Adams in December last year, calling for an investigation.

Ellis was convicted on 13 charges of abusing children in his care at the Christchurch Civic Creche, in 1993. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

Since then, his convictions have been the subject of extensive consideration including two appeals, an inquiry by former Chief Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum, and a 2003 petition to Parliament. In 2008, a similar request for a Commission of Inquiry was made to and rejected by former Justice Minister Simon Power.

Adams said today she had declined the request, because the Inquiries Act could not be used to determine someone’s guilt. Nor had Ellis exhausted all of his appeal rights within the judicial system.

“Furthermore, the request is almost identical to the one made to former Justice Minister Power, and contains no new evidence. I’m not satisfied there is any new information or development that warrants reconsideration of Mr Power’s decision,” she said.

Sad  to see that one refusal to investigate properly is used an excuse to refuse another.

In their letter, Brash and Hood wrote in the history of New Zealand criminal justice, “no petition to Parliament has been supported by such a weight of political, legal and scholarly authority as the 2003 petition calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry”.

It also cited a “wave of child abuse hysteria that swept the western world in the 1990s”.

It remains a stain on our policing and judicial systems if it remains undealt with.

Of all the controversial historical cases I see the least dispute over the Ellis case, with little sign of claims that the system got it right.

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